Vancouver's poet laureate Brad Cran, who refused to read his poems at Olympic events, is participating in an evening of a poetry reading Monday for anti-Olympic protesters who have set up a tent city to draw international attention during the Winter Games to homelessness in Vancouver.
In sharp contrast to Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson's enthusiasm for the Olympics, the city's poet laureate has been highly critical of the Games' cultural program. He has criticized the Vancouver Organizing Committee for muzzling free speech and neglecting literary events. He suggested organizers have a Canadian poet read one poem each night on one of the celebration stages, a suggestion that has been disregarded.
Mr. Cran said he believes he is fulfilling the mandate of his position by reading his poetry at the protesters' tent city. "It's important if you see things you do not agree with, that you speak out," he said, adding that he is expressing his views as a poet, and not a social activist or community advocate for housing.
Mr. Robertson was not available yesterday for an interview. Wendy Stewart, assistant director of communication for city hall, said Mr. Cran is entitled to speak out against the Olympics cultural program if he wishes and still retain his post. "He is free to offer his personal opinions," she said.
The poet laureate is an honorary two-year position for a champion of poetry, language and the arts. When he was appointed last May, he said his goals were to engage with politics and social issues in the city, celebrate the city's culture and bring poetry to elementary schools.
Street protests have continued in Vancouver daily since the Olympics opened last Friday. More than 200 people rallied in support of a national housing program earlier Monday before marching to an empty lot in the heart of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and setting up several red tents for homeless people.
With numerous media from countries around the world at their protest, organizers dubbed the area as the Olympic tent village. Housing advocates criticized the government for spending so much on the Olympics while Canadians do not have adequate housing.
However the tent city received a lukewarm reception from some street youth who have lived for months in shelters and under bridges in the city. A 24-year old woman named Chleo said she did not want to be part of a high profile protest. She has a hard enough time asking for help, she said. She did not want to be caught on camera, she said.