UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds


Loosen up a little

By Brian Platt

In 2007, I lived in Europe for 10 months. I spent my last night there on the grassy lawn of the Champs de Mars, drinking wine with a small crowd of travellers while the Eiffel Tower loomed overhead. Earlier in my travels, I had enjoyed sipping a beer on the sunny lawn of the university in Copenhagen, on the train to Prague, by a canal in Amsterdam — all perfectly serene, no drunken hooligans in sight.

Since returning, I’ve lived mostly in Vancouver. The city is filled with green parks and beautiful beaches, and on most nights it’s warm enough to sit outside. It’s also wonderfully bug-free. But if I tried to share a bottle of wine in a park with some friends, a police officer could come by, dump out the contents and hand us a ticket.

This annoys me to no end. It’s not just about alcohol. In general, I want Canadians to loosen up a little. We’re much too willing to let a few bad apples spoil things for the rest of us.

Yet I had to think hard about my stance this past June, while working at a United Church camp in Saskatchewan and watching the Stanley Cup finals on a tiny TV with rabbit ears. I stared in horror at the heart-wrenching images of Vancouverites smashing store windows and stealing everything inside, flipping over random vehicles and torching them, or throwing rocks at the heads of police officers. Soon it emerged that many of the rioters were fellow students of mine at the University of British Columbia. There were pictures and videos of them doing terrible things, for which they’ve since apologized in abject shame and claimed they didn’t know what came over them.

The response among some has been that Vancouver should never have allowed so many people to gather downtown (most reports put the Game 7 crowd at around 120,000 people). But we can’t let this be the answer. I was in Vancouver during the Olympics, and the streets were amazing places to be; the city was alive like never before. The problem this past June wasn’t that people were in the streets; it was that the police weren’t in place to deal with the troublemakers among them.

I’m as angry as anyone that Vancouver was apparently unprepared for trouble, but I still say the city was right to encourage the party. The right balance really isn’t that hard to find: ensure the police are able to arrest those who destroy property and hurt others. Let the rest of us, who are the massive majority, have fun and enjoy ourselves.

It works in Europe. In Holland, April 30 is Koninginnedag, or the Queen’s Day. Restrictions against selling wares on the street are lifted, and makeshift markets spring up in towns and cities everywhere. It’s like a giant yard sale crossed with an outdoor concert; literally millions of people mingle and celebrate. And it happens every year. Having experienced the freedom of public life in Europe, I realized how boring Canada can be, despite everything else that makes this country great. In some ways, returning to Canada felt like going back to kindergarten. Do this. Don’t do that. It could be different, if we wanted it to be.

Peace, order and good government should never be taken for granted, but we need to push back on it every so often. It’s part of what makes life worth living.

Author's photo
Brian Platt is a master of journalism student at Carleton University.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.


June 2017


by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart


March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image