VANCOUVER - Mayor Sam Sullivan's decision this week to remove the long-standing Falun Gong protest shelter on Granville Street is disturbing not for what it means to one small protest, but for what it symbolises in terms of our country's attitude as a whole.
By dismantling the structure - which has caused little trouble in the five years it has been there - for violating city bylaws, Sullivan is demonstrating that he puts aesthetics above larger issues.
His attitude, sadly, is reflective of that held by our nation as a whole.
China's habitual violation of civil and human rights is no secret. But while our country loudly criticises the abuses of other, smaller powers, we remain markedly silent about the behaviour of the rising giant across the Pacific.
Vancouver's planned port expansion is testament to the eagerness with which we are embracing our new friendship.
And the Falun Gong protest, with its rickety structure and unsightly posters, is an uncomfortable reminder of what we are ignoring about our new friend. By effectively shutting the protest down, we are allowing ourselves to hide from an unpleasant truth: when we have nothing invested in another nation, we quite happily call out its every misstep, but when a nation is closely tied to our own economic well-being, we are much more hesitant to criticise.
That the Falun Gong images and the protest shelter are offensive should not be of real concern to us. And it should not be of concern to Vancouver's mayor.
Rather, it is when these things cease to offend that we should begin to worry in earnest.
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