The Walmart of Sex Trafficking

 

“The Walmart of sex trafficking”, that’s how Andrea Powell, Executive Director of Fair Fund, describes Craigslist. Her organization is attempting to prevent worldwide human trafficking of youth. And right now, their sights are on Craigslist which has already come under fire for its adult content ads.

Other human rights organizations and law enforcement have been putting pressure on the popular advertising site to abandon its Adult Services section. Currently, the attorney general of Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, is rallying his fellow AGs in other states to join him in demanding that Craigslist clean up their act. Ads for prostitution indicate that they have not made a concerted effort to do that.

RebeccaProject bannerAds in major newspapers draw attention to the experiences of sex trafficking victims. The Rebecca Project for Human Rights has been placing the ads on behalf of victims. The organization advocates for justice, dignity and policy reform for vulnerable women and girls in the United States and Africa.

The advocacy group, Fair Fund, works closely with the Project. Fair Fund educates teenagers about sexual violence and human trafficking. In doing so, they attempt to build community leadership, and provide empowerment programs to give youngsters the confidence to avoid being exploited. If the worst should happen, Fair Fund offers compassionate intervention services. Fair Fund also trains agencies and individuals who come in contact with teens, such as teachers and police officers, how to identify and assist those teens who are at risk.

“Government bans are likely to be less effective than Prohibition of the 1920s; supply and access will not stop,” Claire Simmers, chair of St. Joseph’s University international business department said in an interview with TechNewsWorld. She suggested that socially irresponsible behavior was not in the best interest of Craigslist’s company growth model.

It is true that content on the Internet is difficult to control, and apparently that is the case at Craigslist too, or at least that’s what they would lead us to believe. Fair Fund’s activities are just one attempt to remedy the world wide affinity for sexual exploitation of youth. They focus on females at risk, but research shows that young boys are also victimized.

Companies in our industry, including salesforce.com and Verizon Foundation, support their efforts. If you want to help too, you can donate at the Fair Fund site, and also read other news stories of what’s going on in the dark world of sex crimes against children.

source:http://www.brightsideofnews.com/news/2010/8/10/the-walmart-of-sex-trafficking.aspx

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Published in: on August 11, 2010 at 8:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Susan Sarandon Speaks Out Against Child Sex Trafficking

Susan Sarandon’s career has surged this year. She’ll appear in Oliver Stone’s coming movie “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” just wrapped the Duplass Brothers comedy “Jeff Who Lives at Home,” and will begin work this coming Monday on the HBO pilot “The Miraculous Year” with director Kathryn Bigelow. She also received an Emmy nomination for her performance opposite Al Pacino in HBO’s April telefilm “You Don’t Know Jack.” In addition to her acting work, she’s lending her voice to causes she finds important, such as the eradication of child sex trafficking.

At a press conference this afternoon at the Morgans Hotel Penthouse, Sarandon talked about the importance of educating the public about the issue, saying that “unless you demand a change, governments won’t suddenly have a consciousness raising and decide to change a system that is so deeply rooted into these countries and our country, too.”

An estimated 1.2 million children annually are exploited in the U.S. and international sex trade, according to ECPAT, a network of groups and individuals working to end the sexual exploitation of children for commercial purposes. Starting August 2, ECPAT is helping to support a petition on the subject at The Body Shop stores and online calling for new legal protection for children under age 18.

“I chose very carefully the groups that I talk about and will put my reputation on the line for,” Sarandon said. “You get a big bang for your buck with this group because you know where the money is going.”

Also at the press conference was Somaly Mam, a Cambodian human rights activist who was abandoned as a child in the mid-70’s during the Pol Pot regime and sold into prostitution. As an adult, she has rescued, rehabilitated and provided shelter, education and medical care for thousands of girls in Southeast Asia through her self-named foundation.

Mam was profiled as Glamour magazine’s 2006 Woman of the Year by Mariane Pearl, the widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl. She was also lauded as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2009 by Angelina Jolie (who portrayed Mariane Pearl in the 2007 film “A Mighty Heart”). “My support, my energy, everything comes from the girls [that she rescues] and also my great staff at the Foundation,” Mam said.

Of her friendship with Sarandon, Mam said, “Susan always make me laugh when we have lunch. She takes care of me and protects me.”

About Mam, Sarandon said, “I’m grateful for her example. When I’m freaking out about some stupid little thing and I get a call from her about something that really is a big thing, it puts my life in perspective.”

In addition to Sarandon, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Laura Dern, Rob Lowe and Uma Thurman also support efforts to stop child sex trafficking.

source: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/07/30/susan-sarandon-speaks-out-against-child-sex-trafficking/

House Members: New Obama Admin. Rule Tramples Law, Enables Sex-Traffickers

A group of U.S. representatives are claiming that a new rule regarding HIV funding by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which becomes effective Thursday, undermines U.S. anti-sex trafficking and prostitution efforts.

The representatives argue that the rule will open the floodgates of U.S. taxpayer money to organizations which participate in or deliberately ignore sex trafficking and prostitution.

At a Thursday press conference, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), the author of a landmark U.S. anti-trafficking law and two subsequent anti-trafficking laws, and Rep. Joe Pitts (PA-16), who is also a human rights leader in Congress, spoke out against the new administrative rule, saying it weakens current federal law.

The Congressmen said the HHS rule radically alters the implementation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and guts a legislative provision written by Smith, called the Smith Amendment, which prohibits any overseas organization lacking a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking from getting HIV funding. The Smith Amendment has been standing policy since 2003 after it was approved by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush.

“The Obama Administration is enabling sex trafficking and prostitution all over the world,” Smith said at a press conference on the East Lawn of the Capitol Building. “We’re going backwards significantly. The brothel owners and operators and sex traffickers want U.S. taxpayer funds. The Administration is practically working hand-in-glove with them.”

The new HHS rule fundamentally alters the implementation of the funding limitation of the “Leadership Act”  [United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003, Public Law 108-25] which established PEPFAR. Section 301(f) of the law states: “no funds made available to carry out this Act, or any amendment made by this Act, may be used to provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.”

“I want to end the scourge on AIDS and HIV, too,” said Smith, noting that he and Rep. Pitts were strong supporters of PEPFAR. But the HHS rule, he said, substantially waters down the provisions preventing U.S. funds from going to pro-prostitution or sex trafficking groups in two ways.

First, he said, the rule would significantly weaken the wall of separation required between a recipient of U.S. funding under PEPFAR and an affiliate that engages in activities inconsistent with a policy opposing prostitution and sex trafficking. This enables U.S. monies to flow to organizations that are fundamentally indistinguishable from other organizations that violate the policy by supporting prostitution or sex trafficking. Under the rule, there is the potential that organizations barred from receiving PEPFAR funding could share facilities, staff, legal status, and even bank accounts with organizations receiving funding.

Second, the rule significantly weakens the assurance that a funding recipient would have to demonstrate that the organization is complying with the requirements in section 301(f). Instead of requiring clear certification and documentation demonstrating compliance, as was the case until Thursday, the policy will be reduced to a mere mention in Department notices and inserted as one sentence in documents awarding funding.

Oddly enough, the removal of the certification requirement is purportedly intended to save organizations one half-hour of time, at a cost of $13.22.

Smith noted that some pro-prostitution organizations lobbied heavily for the deletion of section 301(f) during the reauthorization of the Leadership Act in 2008, but Congress did not weaken the provisions.

“I strongly oppose the rule,” Smith said. “The Administration shows it is less concerned with eliminating the human rights violation of sexual exploitation, particularly of women and children, than it is with funding entities that refuse to oppose such exploitation.

“This Administration has decided not to stand up for victims and human rights, and is not adhering to the law, Congressional intent, the official policy of the U.S. Government, or the fundamental principles of the American people.”

source: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/may/10051312.html

Canadian Government, Red Cross Hush Up Slave-Labor Allegations

Last week, whistle-blower and former Canadian Red Cross employee Virgil Grandfield came forward to say that construction projects in Indonesia funded by Canadian taxpayers and contracted out by the Canadian Red Cross were using “slave labor,” and perhaps hundreds of workers were being denied payment. The projects in question were part of a tsunami relief and construction effort in the Aceh region of the country. Now, as it turns out, both the Canadian government and the Canadian Red Cross have known for two years about the allegations, but have tried to keep them quiet.

According to reports, after the 2004 tsunami which destroyed large areas of Indonesia, $66 million of Canadian taxpayer money was allocated to support rebuilding efforts there. The money was contracted to the Canadian Red Cross (CRC), who then sub-contracted to smaller organizations, some of whom subcontracted even further. And someone, somewhere along that chain decided to keep all that money instead of using it to pay workers. So he trafficked in men and women for the task and refused to pay some workers.

During the course of the project, some pretty serious allegations began to reach the CRC — its contractors were mistreating workers, they were forcing them to work without pay, and they had subjected workers to poor conditions, including leaky roofs, lack of clean water, and no access to bathing facilities. And what did the CRC do? They hired an accounting firm to look into the matter and develop a report. Yes, an investigation by an accountant is better than no investigation at all, but is that really the most proactive response to allegations that taxpayer dollars are being used to fund slavery? Then again, when it happened in the U.S., we didn’t even get accountants.

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Virginia Attorney General Proposes Re-Legalizing Slavery to Save on Healthcare Costs

In a stunning political move, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cucinelli, leading a coalition of Republican lawmakers and politicians, has proposed the long-awaited GOP health care option: making slavery legal in the U.S. once again. The plan was designed with the goal of saving money in the coming years of “socialized Third Reich Obamacare.” Cucinelli pointed out that if part of the U.S. population only counted as three-fifths of a person like in 1850, they would only need a portion of the medical care provided by a government bloated on the tax dollars of real Americans. Thus, “Slavery 2010: Part Deux” as the proposal is affectionately called, would save American taxpayers billions.

When asked if he would suggest legally enslaving all African-Americans as per historical practice, Cucinelli affirmed that African-American people were very important to the Republican party and would certainly not be enslaved under his new plan. He instead suggested enslaving those who have proved themselves most detrimental to the health of America. This would include, of course, gays, undocumented immigrants, professors at liberal arts colleges in the Northeast, all women who ever visited a Planned Parenthood clinic, and anyone who has ever criticized Sarah Palin on their personal blog. Under Slavery 2010, he explained from his Richmond mansion, your candidacy for enslavement won’t be based on the color of your skin, but on how well you’ve demonstrated your love for America. Colin Powell, for example, will remain free. But Barbra Streisand, Michael Moore, and anyone who bought arugula in the past two years will be sold at auction to the highest bidder. Unlike historical slavery, this version would be a meritocracy, where merit can be purchased via campaign contributions to the GOP.

As the Slavery 2010 proposal gains ground support, more and more Republican members of Congress are beginning to see it as a viable economic solution to issues other than just health care. Slave children don’t get to go to school, creating smaller class sizes for the few free children who won’t be home schooled. Re-instituting slavery would also be a big job creator, as millions of out-of-work “real Americans” could be hired to weigh, price, and process the likes of Rahm Emanuel and Barney Frank. Slavery would even solve America’s problems abroad, providing cheap, front line soldiers for Iraq and Afghanistan who aren’t entitled to any of those pesky “veterans benefits.”

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Stop “Conflict Free” Certification for Diamonds Mined by Children and Slaves

Buyer beware — these days, even diamonds labeled as “conflict-free” at your jeweler might be funding slavery, child labor, torture, rape, and other serious human right violations across Africa. That’s because for the past several months, the Kimberly Process which was designed to prevent “conflict diamonds” from being sold on the international market, has been failing. But you can prevent any more money from the sale of diamonds from funding slavery and human rights violations by asking for serious reform of the Kimberly Process.

For decades, the diamond industry has been deeply woven into the fabric of oppression and war in Africa. Funds from diamond mining have been used to fund civil wars, rape as a tool of war, torture, slavery, and the abuse of workers and children. To help prevent the sale of diamonds that fund civil wars, the international community and diamond industry came together to create the Kimberley Process. The Kimberley Process is the international certification scheme intended to combat the problem of conflict diamonds. Established in 2003, the Kimberley Process is supposed to ensure that diamond mining does not contribute to war, oppression, and suffering. Certification by the Kimberly Process adds the international community’s “stamp of approval” to a diamond’s origins and opens the door to the global marketplace.

But the Kimberley Process is failing in its job. It is currently certifying Zimbabwean diamonds as “conflict-free,” despite clear evidence that mining for the gemstones has led to serious human rights abuses. As Brilliant Earth points out on their blog, the Zimbabwean military under President Robert Mugabe has seized control of the country’s diamond mines and has used forced labor, murder, and torture to keep production going. The profits from these diamonds are helping Mugabe’s authoritarian regime continue, and rough gems are being exchanged directly for arms that go to supply Mugabe’s military. Furthermore, as the Kimberly Process continues to certify Zimbabwean diamonds, they are showing up at jewelry stores around the world, labeled as “certified conflict-free.”

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Published in: on April 3, 2010 at 8:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Humanitarian Nightcap With Ashley Judd: The Human Trafficking Panel

A small showing of Harvard came out to hear the Next Harvard Thinks Big Experts talk about the pressing issue of modern-day slavery and human trafficking on the evening of March 24, 2010. The panel consisted of professor Tim McCarthy, the Director of Human Rights and Social Movements at Harvard’s own Carr Center, professor of Sociology Orlando Patterson, journalist and author of A Crime So Monstrous Benjamin Skinner, author of Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern-Day Slavery Siddharth Kara, Katherine Chon, the founder of Polaris Project, an organization fighting for a world without slavery, and the headliner of the event Ashley Judd, actress and YouthAIDS global ambassador with Population Services International as well as a current student in Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

After Professor McCarthy’s long winded introduction of the big-shots of the panel, during which Professor Patterson squirmed, fidgeted, and fought to open his Evian water bottle, the panel was asked to speak of the roads that led them to become crucial figures of the modern slavery abolition movement. The drastically different stories of the panelists underlined the personal significances the cause has had in their lives.

Siddharth Kara, for example, threw his career as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch aside to use his background in finance and law in order to start a campaign to research current forms of slavery around the world to eventually gather his research and provide a foundational legal and statistical analysis of the business of modern-day slavery. Ms. Judd related her story and role in the issue of slavery with the composure and charisma of a Hollywood actress, not failing to downplay her celebrity by throwing out how humbled she is to be on the same panels with her heroes and role models. She also warned the moderate number of people in the audience that she would have to dip out early because she had a conference call awaiting her. Judd recalled her experiences in the brothels of Cambodia and Thailand, where her mission was to ensure women trapped in slavery were protecting their health.

Notable tales of the remaining panelists included Chon’s jump to volunteer work after her teacher in high school asked, or more specifically yelled, “What is your passion?” and Skinner’s first encounter with the subject of slaver at a Quaker meeting and later travels to all parts of the globe as part of his journalistic mission to interview different people with roles in slavery.

Professor Patterson, meanwhile, focused on the impact that the history of slavery in Jamaica, his native country, has had on his work. Among his many written works, including three books and features in the New York Times, Patterson was a founding member of Cultural Survival, one of the leading advocacy groups for the rights of indigenous peoples.

The panelists were enlightening in their expertise and undoubtedly allowed the audience members to leave with new knowledge. In addition, they could have left with a trinket or two or a tote bags on sale outside the lecture hall venue whose sale benefited some organization or other. Bracelets for a good cause and a sprinkling of good karma are always a plus.

source: http://verynoice.com/2010/03/a-humanitarian-nightcap-with-ashley-judd-the-human-trafficking-panel/

Published in: on March 27, 2010 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The New Hotbed of Human Trafficking Is … Ohio

Those of you who thought Ohio was all about rock n’ roll, amazing chili, and a seriously unhealthy football obsession may want to think again. A new report conducted by the Trafficking in Persons Study Commission found that 1800 people are trafficked in Ohio every year. This includes 800 immigrants who are exploited in commercial sex and factory work, as well as about 1000 American-born children who are forced into prostitution. Who would have thought that Ohio would be such a hotebed of human trafficking?

But why Ohio, whose largest city, Columbus, is dwarfed by neighboring Chicago? How can a place that sounds and appears so wholesome be responsible for forcing a thousand children into sexual slavery each year? The report cites weak laws on human trafficking, a growing demand for cheap labor, and Ohio’s proximity to the Canadian border as the key reasons modern-day slavery thrives in the state. I’m going to take a metaphorical highlighter to that word “demand,” because that is the key to the human trafficking crisis.

Like many other places in the U.S., Ohio has a growing immigrant population, including those who have migrated legally, illegally but voluntarily, and involuntarily. Undocumented migrants are at increased risk for trafficking and exploitation, and in Ohio about 800 of them were found exploited in factories, agriculture, constriction sites, and brothels. Often, migrants are trafficked by high organized criminal networks who transport the victims into and around the U.S. They are the criminals, but it’s the demand for cheap goods and food and for commercial sex that create an industry for trafficked immigrant workers.

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Freedom Week to promote human trafficking awareness

Westhampton College students and the WILL program are co-sponsoring Freedom Week from March 22 to March 26 to raise awareness of both domestic and international human trafficking.

The inspiration for this event stems from an impactful trip that junior Carter Quinley and senior Tran Doan took to Thailand. During the trip, Quinley and Doan participated in the Purse Project, which teaches female victims of human trafficking to make pocketbooks to help them reintegrate into society. Their experience fostered a desire to bring this issue to the University of Richmond community.

“We really hope that students become aware of human trafficking and its reality both in the United States and throughout the world,” said freshman Addie Rauschert.

All week, there will be a table displayed in the Commons with informative pamphlets and freeset organization bags made by women emerging from sex trafficking and prostitution. The hand-crafted bags will be sold for $15 each, and all profits will directly benefit the Project Meridian Foundation, a Richmond organization that rescues victims of human trafficking.

Interested students will also receive an orange bracelet, symbolizing international freedom, to wear for the week. Participants are asked to reflect on those in human bondage, who lack basic freedoms that many Richmond students take for granted.

At 3 p.m. on March 25 in Room A001 of Gottwald Science Center, Maureen McDonnell, the First Lady of Virginia, will lead a question-and-answer panel with variety of guest speakers from Richmond’s Project Meridian Foundation (PMF). The speakers will include: Lawrence S. Eagleburger, former U.S. secretary of state and PMF board member; Nathan Wilson, president and founder of PMF; Craig W. Duehring, former assistant secretary of the air force for manpower and reserve affairs and PMF board member; Louis F. Palombella, former DEA section chief and PMF director of training/counterintelligence; and Captain Steve Drew, commander of the major crimes unit for Richmond Police Department.

“There are a wide variety of speakers, so the event should be really interesting,” Rauschert said. “We hope that students take the opportunity to become aware.”

http://www.thecollegianur.com/2010/03/22/freedom-week-to-promote-human-tra

The bittersweet Olympics

The 2010 Olympics should not happen. At least that was my first thought regarding this year’s Winter Games, but that didn’t stop me from jumping at the chance to go when I was offered a free flight and accommodations- I mean who wouldn’t . . . right?

Once in Vancouver, it’s hard not to get swept up in the Olympic fervour. After a flight cancellation due to fog and waiting in line for an hour with Toronto-bound travelers, I was placed on a direct flight to Vancouver International- the starting point for most Olympiad enthusiasts and thousands of visitors during the games.

It didn’t take long for conflicting emotions to arise. How much money had the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games spent on massive renovations or the new, pristine Skytrain line extension to the airport- the Canada Line- while hundreds of homeless Vancouverites still walk the East Side? But be still my frustrated mind, maybe there is more to these games than the shortcomings of its governing bodies.

Wandering around the University of British Columbia campus- home of the Thunderbird Arena hosting Ice Hockey- one can glimpse the excitement throbbing in the downtown core. Flag poles adorned with the Olympic regalia lining the streets, the waves of smiling aqua shirt Volunteers and the faux-torch you can get a snapshot with are just on campus teasers of what is in the city’s heart. Olympic pride is intoxicating, even for someone who was predominately Anti-Olympics- as if VANOC somehow released a gas over Vancouver to quell the nay-sayers and drug them with nationalistic pride. It merely took pedestrians in Team Canada apparel or a stranger in the distance cheering “Go Canada!” to make my heart palpate and my head feel I was part of something bigger.

Once I got the chance to settle down in front of a computer, I created a make-shift list of free events I was going to attend- having not enough forethought to plan ahead or the money to attend any real events. My first choice of venues was the Heineken or Holland House, which opened at 8 p.m. and featured famous DJs from the Netherlands. Until my sister burst through the door and announced that Stephen Colbert was filming episodes of the Colbert Report live from a stage on the waterfront the next day. In the meantime my sister and I braved our way through the throngs of people downtown just after Canada beat Norway 7–0 in Men’s Hockey.

The smell of hotdog stands, stale beer and pot perforated the air of Granville Street, the hub of Vancouver’s party scene. Being a Tuesday and still a work night for most Vancouverites, the streets were not as crowded as I expected. However, buskers and waves of red and white were still present. We decided to stop in at Robson Square to check out the laser and light show Ignite the Dream. Backed by vocals from Canadian artists, the light show featured enough Canadian pride to make anyone queasy under normal circumstances, but fortunately for the designers of this electro-light orchestra, the Olympics make for citizens who revel and bathe in over-the-top nationalistic fervour. That point was further proven upon passing The Bay, where we saw the four to six hour line for official Olympic Wear.

With our alarms set for 7 a.m. we slept briefly before arriving at the waterfront for Colbert’s performance. We were thankful for my sister’s friend; an avid Colbert fan who had been in line since 5:45 a.m. and was holding a spot for both of us. While waiting in line, we speculated about Colbert’s entrance. Would he propel down from a helicopter assisted by a flock of eagles? Would a whale breach the surface, Colbert emerging from its gullet to be swiftly carried by an eagle to stage? Unfortunately for us, these fantasies weren’t realized, but his mere presence set off a wave of excitement as intense as the games themselves. Michael Bublé sang the Canadian national anthem to the tune of Star Spangled Banner with Colbert. Michael Eruzione confessed that the Olympics were essentially the “UN in tight Lycra” or “where the world fights its proxy wars on ice.” And ultimately, Bob Costas rode a taxidermy Moose.

When the magic was over, we split off from the main group and made our way through Chinatown, Hastings and Gastown to reach the Cauldron. I got my first real taste of Anti-Olympic sentiment walking through the East Side- billings and anti-games graffiti prominent on the sides of buildings. Such sentiment was less apparent throughout the rest of city, but loomed just below the surface. VANOC and the IOC received considerable criticism for their attempt to deal with the regular tenants of the Downtown East Side.

Vancouver has one of the highest rates of homelessness in Canada and VANOC’s feeble effort to displace thousands of homeless from the streets brought more attention to this issue- most protestors carry anti-poverty and pro-housing project placards. Those who wish to protest the Olympics and Paralympics for the entire duration of the games can find solace in the Tent City set up at Pigeon Park, the central hub for the homeless.

Another noticeable aspect of Chinatown and East Hastings is that next to the occasional “Go Canada! Gold!” signs in shop windows, it’s hard to tell the city is hosting the games. The organizing bodies’ worries about Olympic inspired chaos seem to be unfounded. A hum of excitement runs through the city, but aside from the masked protestors smashing The Bay windows, the crowds have been tame.

Despite broad criticism of the Winter Olympics, the Pride House on Davie Street has garnered significant positive feedback. Professional sports are still predominately conservative and masculine (perhaps with the exception of figure skating) which makes it hard for athletes, organizers, coaches and others involved to come out publicly. However in the wake of hockey’s Brian Hirsk coming out- who recently died in a car crash- and the Pride House being erected, a gate opened for those who have kept their sexual orientation a secret in fear of shame and rejection from fellow athletes and the public.

Once we reached downtown, we decided to check out the Aboriginal Pavilion located in the Pan Pacific Hotel. Much criticism has been levied at VANOC for not focusing enough on Aboriginals before and during the Olympics. Aboriginal Tourism BC organized the majority of Aboriginal venues and events which featured live dances, local artists from Squamish, Haida, Musqueme and other Aboriginal nations as well as talks for anyone interested in Canada’s Aboriginal culture and history.

Our last stop for the day was to check out the infamous Olympic Cauldron. Unfortunately, the Cauldron was surrounded by an eight foot chain link fence and the only way to take an unobstructed photo was to wait in line for over an hour to scale the stairs. VANOC was in negotiations to use a lower fence and has since switched to a clear plastic barrier. Because of protests preceding and during the first days of the games, there are concerns that the Cauldron could be defaced. This seems unlikely given the 24-hour security and hoards of pro-Olympic fan boys who would not hesitate to tackle any vandals, but VANOC refuses to dismantle the wall between the ultimate symbol of the games and its adoring public.

Later on, while crossing the Granville Bridge, we heard yodeling. It seems that before we even reached Granville Island, we found the Swiss House. Not only was there yodelling at the Swiss House, authentic Swiss pork sausages, slices of rye bread covered with sauerkraut and cheese and, of course, the famed Swiss protein crackers were served, all backed by a stand up bassist and an accordion player.

The Heineken House would be the ultimate way to cap off the 2010 experience on a student budget. The venue was touted to hold up to 4,000 and I was determined to be one of those non-Dutch attendees.

On the bus heading to the Richmond Oval, or the aptly named O-Zone, everyone erupted into a rendition of “O Canada” in tribute to the Men’s Hockey Team who had just won a close game against Team Switzerland. The Thursday crowds were the largest yet thanks to the recent Canadian win. The celebratory air increased tenfold as chants and horns blasted throughout the core. Even away from the Skytrain’s considerable crowd, Olympic gusto was prevalent.

When we got to the Heineken House we learned that it was at capacity, but I was willing to wait until it emptied a bit. Apparently, though, once the House reaches capacity they close it off to the public until the next day. The only way to get in is with a Dutch passport. Attempts to barter our way in or sneak around the back failed, but just across the field Our Lady Peace was playing a free concert. I briefly treated my inner 15-year-old.

Leaving about 20 minutes later, my attention was drawn to a pile of flyers. As I inspected one, I felt a little crestfallen. They called attention to the notorious sex trafficking industry- especially of underage girls- in Canada. The Olympics have become a podium not only for athletes, but for human rights, animal rights and environmental activists to have their voices heard while the world watches Vancouver.

It’s difficult to say whether the apparent success of the games in the face of much criticism is due to the competency of the organizing bodies or the work of thousands of volunteers and proud Canadians who have made this event so memorable and enjoyable for millions of participants and viewers. It is easy to get swept up in the Olympics in the host city- as easy as it is to judge from a distance. Becoming the host city and province has infected the majority of West Coast occupants- one can expect great service and smiles with the politeness Canadians are known and mocked for.

Raised awareness of rights violations and the undercutting tactics of the governing bodies, like the attempted exodus of the homeless to an abandoned mental asylum or the $16 million in education funding cuts alongside a post-secondary tuition increase, may result in the stronger enforcement of laws and regulations being required of host nations before the Olympics can take place on their soil.

Until then, the Olympics and Paralympics will always take precedence over a majority of issues in the host country. Hopefully everyone will get a glimpse of the IOC’s increasing accountability when all eyes turn to London for the 2012 Summer Games.

source: http://thegauntlet.ca/a/story/14302?print=1