Vancouver's 5 best and 5 worst moments of 2010
In the wake of Pickton's arrest, The Vancouver Police Department was criticized for not moving fast enough to arrest Pickton and for not taking seriously tips from the community. This year, the VPD appeared to show new commitment to the safety of women in the Downtown Eastside. Deputy police chief Doug LePard publicly apologized to the victims' families, stating, "I wish from the bottom of my heart that we would have caught him sooner." After piloting the Guardian Project, Police Chief Chu announced the creation of the Sister Watch program earlier this month. It includes a tip line, town hall meetings, a website, a speaker's bureau and a reward of up to $10, 000 for information about the death of Ashley Machiskinic, who fell from a window of the Regent Hotel.
The program is by no means perfect. It has been called a "band-aid solution" by Pivot Society lawyer Katrina Pacey. In a Georgia Straight article, she argues that larger systemic issues need to be addressed. And further, that governments must acknowledge their complicity in the marginalization and vulnerability of women in the Downtown Eastside.
The Sister Watch program makes this list because it is a step in the right direction, rather than an ultimate solution. Hopefully, it is also the sign of an improving relationship between the VPD and the Downtown Eastside community.
4. Pride House at the Olympics
Now this is something we can all be proud of: Vancouver was the first city to host an LGBTQ venue in Olympic history. (For the modern games, at least. Ancient Greece was another story...)
Pride House created a space for athletes, coaches and the public to watch events, relax and meet new people at the games. A report released in November found that more than 20,000 people visited the three Olympic Pride House venues and hundreds more participated in outreach events. The venue sent a message of inclusivity and raised the profile of LGBTQ issues and athletes in the world of sports. Widespread media coverage brought this to the world stage.
The venue was even credited with encouraging New Zealand speedskater Blake Skjellerup to come out after the games. "It was great to see such a thing," he told Australian Magazine DNA. "If I had felt like I needed a space to be myself away from the Olympic village, it would have been there. I hope the idea can grow from Olympics to Olympics."
It looks like he will have his wish. Pride Houses are being planned for the London Summer Olympics in 2012 and the Sochi, Russia Winter Olympics in 2014.
5. Smoking ban on beaches and parks
Vancouver will be able to breathe again. Long walks on the beach and leisurely afternoons in the park will no longer be interrupted by the stench of cigarettes. In April, the Parks Board unanimously voted to approve a smoking ban on the city's parks and beaches that began September 1st.
It's hard not to see the health benefits of this decision. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, smoking is responsible for 30% of all cancer deaths and is related to 85% of all lung cancer deaths. Second hand smoke contains over 4000 chemicals and over 1000 non-smoking Canadians die each year from second hand smoke. These startling statistics, combined with the negative aesthetic impact of cigarette litter and the risk of fire in urban forests, make this a wise move.
1. High crime rate