Vancouver Special: "Border Wars" Is a Winter Olympic Event

First, Canada trucked in the snow for the Vancouver Olympics.

Then, they called in reinforcements in the form of ICE — Immigration and Customs Enforcement from the United States to help with “security” for the games.

End result: With no medals up for grabs, the United States and Canada are playing border wars with innocent yet “suspicious-looking” civilians.

In late November, Democracy Now broadcaster, Amy Goodman, was detained and questioned for more than an hour by Canadian border guards demanding to know the reason for her visit to Canada. She was eventually let in, but only for 48 hours. Apparently, Canadian officials were paranoid that Ms. Goodman was visiting Canada to protest against the Winter Olympics.

Marla Renn of the Olympic Resistance Network was not so lucky. Recently, she was detained for almost 6 hours and returned to Canada by United States border officials when she attempted to speak at some anti-Olympic events in Portland, Oregon.

Friend of the blog, The Unapologetic Mexican, was also turned away at the border this week, along with other people of color, for having a past arrest record obtained when he protested the RNC convention in 2004, which supposedly amounts to “some degree of criminality.” Nezua writes about his experience here.

Canada is giving up some crucial civil liberties by giving free license to law enforcement and border patrol to curb dissent of any sort. Moreover, this self-fulfilling prophecy makes little sense. Bloggers and social activists who had not planned to protest the Olympics have been barred from the event, creating the very negativity that Vancouver was planning to avoid.

While Canada is pouring in $1 billion to beef up security, the United States is spending over $4 million in a new communications complex to scrutinize potential constructed threats such as “the detonation of a radioactive ‘dirty’ bomb; an anthrax attack; a crippling blizzard; a mass evacuation from Canada triggered by a public-health crisis.” If someone wanted to do some real damage, all they would have to do is scroll news items to get ideas.

But the colors of the Olympic rings do not represent any advisory threat level. All we have are vague reasons to detain, question and bar people from entry on the loose basis that they oppose the Games.

Marla Renn and many others barred from traveling between the United States and Canada are not criminals. They don’t lack proper documentation to cross the “most-friendliest border” in the world. They are simply practicing their constitutional right to free speech, visiting friends, and, quite possibly, trying to enjoy the games.

At least we hope that, unlike Beijing, the unsung migrant workers who poured their hearts and souls into constructing the grand nationalist spectacle, get the chance to “consume” some of what they created. The gold medal belongs to them.

Photo Credit: Michael Francis McCarthy

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