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Guitarist Rik Emmett. (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Guitarist Rik Emmett. (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

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Guitarist Rik Emmett on Vancouver's Stanley Cup riots Add to ...

Guitarist Rik Emmett, formerly with Triumph, will be performing at the Iridium in New York City on Dec. 4 and 5 and at Hugh’s Room in Toronto on Dec. 9.

Are you a hockey fan?

Well, yeah, although not as much a hockey fan as a baseball fan.

Which team do you support?

I’m a Toronto boy, so it’s kind of nice to see the season start so well [although the wheels have since fallen off the Leafs’ momentum]

Are you looking forward to a Stanley Cup riot in Toronto?

I think it would be a lovely thing to have a parade … not that I think it is going to happen any time soon!

Who did you support during the Vancouver-Boston Stanley Cup final?

You get to a certain stage and you start to hate Boston just because they beat some of the teams that you kind of like on their way through. And you cheer for Vancouver because they are a Canadian team – even though all of these teams really are nothing but a bunch of paid mercenaries.

I was a bit of a jock as a kid. I spent a lot of years coaching, mostly baseball, some of my daughter’s soccer, and relatively early on, I learned that you have to take defeat with a measure of grace. Winning solves all problems and makes everything seem wonderful. The test of your character will come when you have to accept defeat graciously.

Might torching a police car take the sting out of losing?

That kind of mentality is one of those horrible aspects of human nature. The hockey game is just an excuse.

Did you see the riots on TV?

News clips. I’m horrified.

Is it more horrific because they were Canadians?

Aren’t Canadians supposed to be the ones who are a little bit more civilized, a little bit more cautious and careful? It might have been just because it was June. If they’d only get the damn playoffs back where they belong, in March.

It would be raining in Vancouver, and they’d be saying, “Aww, let’s just go home.” Geography and climate have probably shaped the culture of this country more than anything. June worked against us.

How do you think the riots were handled – by the police during the events and by the legal system subsequently?

I think there’s a culture clash at work here. The world we live in, this virtual, digital, electronic, instant age. Reality TV is instant. Gratification is instant. Communication is instant. This thing that occurred is happening in an instant and, in an instant, the range of human emotions can be incredibly volatile. Then real time takes over.

Institutionalized systems, police work, the justice system. People don’t see good things happening but good things take a lot of time. They don’t happen in an instant.

Vancouver police claim they were being thorough – many see it as grossly slow – in recommending laying charges. What is your view?

We’ll watch Law & Order and, in a hour, they’ll clean things up. It is so satisfying. We can watch TV and get the sense that this is the real world. Instant. I can pick up my phone and blog and it is in print and worldwide. But that doesn’t mean it is substantial. It doesn’t mean that it is any good because it happened really fast.

Justice has an obligation to give any human effort to get it right. If you are going to be righteous, you have to be balanced. Balance can’t spring from emotion. It can’t spring from revenge. We have to use our reason, our intellect. Those are the higher principles that a human has to aspire to.

You mention balance. Did they get the right balance between millions of dollars in damages to lives and businesses against police recommendations that only 60 people be charged?

Of course not, but once the riot starts and the damage begins, I don’t think there is any chance the victims are going to feel they are done right by. But a judge has to sit in a chair at some point and balance the rights of the accused with the rights of victims, and it’s not an easy thing to do and it’s not a fast thing. Was justice good when it was swift for Donald Marshall Jr. or David Milgaard or Steven Truscott?

There seems to be more faith in civil action than the justice system, from employers instantly firing workers caught on video rioting to civil cases where those victimized will be suing for damages.

That will take forever, and no one ever ends up being happy in the end. In the wake of damages, you are seeing some sort of reparation, but you can never be whole again.

My life has been in show business. I see people at their very best and at their very worst. We can be stupid and so greedy and so violent. The riots point all of that up. We are left with police and justice systems that have to try to make some sort of sense from the fact that humans will behave in ways that don’t make any sense.

 
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