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A Vancouver Canucks fan salutes during a riot following Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday, June 15, 2011. (Geoff Howe/ The Globe and Mail/Geoff Howe/ The Globe and Mail)
A Vancouver Canucks fan salutes during a riot following Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday, June 15, 2011. (Geoff Howe/ The Globe and Mail/Geoff Howe/ The Globe and Mail)

Rod Mickleburgh

Time and smashed windows redeem a former police spokeswoman's finger-wagging Add to ...

Gosh, was Anne Drennan right after all?

The onetime public spokeswoman for the Vancouver Police Department has long been raked by civic boosters for her killjoy advice to would-be New Millennium celebrators: "If you're going to head downtown, you'd better have a place to go. Don't think you're going to come down and party on the street."

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Ms. Drennan's stern finger-wagging was the capper on Vancouver's growing reputation in those halcyon days before Facebook, Twitter and Transformers 2 as "No Fun City."

While ridicule has rightly showered down on her comments ever since, Ms. Drennan was on to something.

There is an element in this city and surrounding suburbs that, depending on the event, will take advantage of it to strut their manhood by binge-drinking themselves silly and calling attention to their puny selves by willfully defying authority and making life miserable for others.

But with the success of the Olympics, the halting revival of street festivals, improved crowd management during the annual Festival of Light fireworks competition, and a general feeling that Police Chief Jim Chu's "meet and greet" strategy was a winner, many believed the city had turned the corner. Riotous rowdy-ism in Vancouver was a thing of the past, like labour reporters.

The widely applauded success of the huge, live viewing sites around Georgia Street for the last two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs re-enforced this belief.

During and after the Canucks' 1-0 victory over Boston in Game 5, police handled crowds in excess of 100,000 people, with some disquieting skirmishing but without serious incident.

Everyone weighed in on how great it was. If anyone was afraid of a riot, they were pretty quiet about it.

We know what happened. The Game 7 street crowd was bad from the get-go. Too many people. Too many drunks. The crush at the front was frightening. Parents with kids left early. It was a perfect storm for trouble. For whatever reason, there were insufficient police resources to cope. Scars from that dreadful night will last a long time.

Since then, there has been a frenzy of finger-pointing and blame-game antics directed at Chief Chu and Mayor Gregor Robertson. Both are facing tough questions, as they should.

We need to know, with certainty, what went wrong, and the province's fact-finding review can't be appointed too quickly.

The mayor, meanwhile, says he's confident large street gatherings remain in Vancouver's future. I'm not so sure. We can't wish away this city's dark side with homilies and bonhomie. If it takes squads of police on every corner to keep the louts under control, count me out.



A brave stand on asbestos

Bravo Chuck Strahl. The former Tory cabinet minister, one of the nice guys in the rough-and-tumble world of partisan politics, has stood up and distanced himself from his recent colleagues on the issue of chrysotile asbestos.

The perilous substance is a carcinogen, causing about 90,000 deaths a year worldwide. Yet Canada is aligned with the likes of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan among a handful of countries opposed to adding asbestos to a UN list of hazardous substances.

The Conservative government is concerned enough about asbestos to have it stripped from the Prime Minister's residence and the House of Commons. Yet it's fine for Canada to export it to developing countries, all the better to keep asbestos mining (if not miners) alive and well in Quebec, where there are votes to be mined, as well.

The federal Liberals took the same shameful position when they were government.

I find Canada's position on asbestos more embarrassing than last week's riot. Damage by the merchants of mayhem can be fixed. Asbestos keeps on killing.

Now, a few months after retiring from the fray, Mr. Strahl has declared that his old political mates are wrong. Importers of Canadian asbestos have a right to know its potential for harm, he opined for this newspaper.

"Workers from all countries will be grateful for that notification - if not today, then a generation from now," Mr. Strahl wrote. The Chilliwack ex-logger and heavy machine operator should know. He has mesothelioma himself.

When he could have stayed silent and maintained Tory solidarity, Mr. Strahl chose to speak out. It's a measure of the man.



Late-night infamy - yes!

Not all British Columbians are card-carrying members of the Denounce the Rioters/I Feel So Angry and Ashamed/Stuff the Hooligans Into the Nearest Port-a-Potty Club. According to an Angus Reid survey of more than 900 worthy citizens, fully 3 per cent felt "pride" over the Stanley Cup riots.

I can see their point. Vancouver is now on the map as a world-class riot city. You don't hear Jay Leno cracking jokes about bike lanes. Step aside, Athens. We're Number One. Yahoo!

Follow on Twitter: @rodmickleburgh

 

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