Deep poverty in a rich country: Vancouver Poverty Olympic sports to highlight Canada’s dismal record on poverty

Instead of speed skating, an imitation Canadian Prime Minister and Premier will demonstrate how they “skate around poverty.”  Poverty Olympic athletes who are homeless or live in tiny hotel rooms with cockroaches and bedbugs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, will climb over “housing hurdles” in an attempt to find decent housing in a city where virtually none is available for low income people.

These are only two of the sports at the 2009 Poverty Olympics, to be held in Vancouver, Canada on Feb. 8th at 1 pm at the Japanese Language School, 487 Alexander St.  Other sports will be “sweeping poverty aside” (curling), and “wrestling for the community.”  The Poverty Olympics mascots are Creepy the Cockroach, Itchy the Bedbug, and Chewy the rat.

The theme of the Poverty Olympics is “End Poverty.  It’s not a Game.”

With just one year before the 2010 Olympics come to Vancouver, Canada, organizers of the Poverty Olympics want the world to know that Canada has deep poverty:  between 10,000 and 15,000 homeless people live in British Columbia, the province where the 2010 Olympics will happen; BC has the highest child poverty rate in Canada (21%); street homelessness increased by 373% in the Vancouver area between 2002 and 2008; the average income for poor parents in BC is BELOW the poverty line by more than $CDN 11,000 a year.  Homeless people die on the street in Vancouver, the Olympic host city.

“Meanwhile our government is spending about $6 billion on games,” said Wendy Pedersen of the Carnegie Community Action Project, a Poverty Olympics sponsor.  “That money could provide over 30,000 homes for people who are homeless in Canada.  “Or it could be used to completely wipe out poverty and homelessness in BC.

Olympic promises of 3200 units of new social housing and poverty reduction have been virtually ignored.  But government money flows to Olympic venues, security, and cost overruns.

The Poverty Olympics are endorsed by several Vancouver non governmental organizations including Raise the Rates, Carnegie Action Project, Streams of Justice, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, BC Persons with AIDS Society, Power to Women, and the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House.

For more information, contact Jean Swanson at 604 729-2380 or Alan James at alan_james@handshake.ca

Check out the Poverty Olympics website at http://povertyolympics.ca