POLITICS

Anniversary of Stanley Cup riot passes relatively quietly in downtown Vancouver

06/15/2012 07:47 EDT | Updated 08/15/2012 05:12 EDT
VANCOUVER - As the Vancouver Canucks were busy losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final last June, Lorna Wilson was at home in the nearby suburb of Delta nursing a terrible cold.

The 66-year-old tuned into the TV coverage of the game from time to time, but she's not much of a hockey fan, so she largely ignored it. She went to sleep that night completely unaware of the chaos that was unfolding in downtown Vancouver.

She didn't hear about the riot — the burning cars, the shattered windows, the looting — until morning.

By then, another story was emerging. Hundreds of volunteers were downtown cleaning up the streets, and many were writing messages of hope and apology on the plywood boards that were covering the windows broken the night before.

Wilson decided to join them. She went downtown, picked up a marker and added her own two cents to the boards: "Well done, Canucks. You won the silver medal."

"I was ashamed of what some people had done," Wilson recalled Friday, the one-year anniversary of the riot.

"I just wanted to come down and show my support for the city. And it was very moving. There was a lot of wonderful things being put up on the boards."

Wilson was among the visitors to a downtown church on Friday to see several of those boards, which have been on display for days.

The Christ Church Cathedral also held a noon-hour service to mark the occasion in what was one of the few public reminders of the riot exactly a year earlier.

"I think it's a great thing that they've done, reminding us of what happened," said Wilson, who saw the riot boards but missed the service.

"I think the very fact we're doing this today and that people are talking about it, people are moving on."

More than 100,000 fans had flooded downtown for the final, including a massive crowd that gathered in front of giant outdoor screens to watch the game.

That's where rioters first flipped and torched a parked vehicle, setting off hours of violent destruction that swept through several blocks, causing millions of dollars in damage as a mix of smoke and tear gas rose above the downtown skyline.

There has been near-daily news coverage for the past week reminding Vancouverites about the riot and the lessons learned that night, but otherwise, the anniversary passed relatively quietly.

Aside from the church service, the only other notable public reminder was an event at London Drugs, a store that was heavily damaged and looted, which featured horses from the police department's mounted squad.

Inside the church, several dozen people watched a service that included music, speeches from the church's rector and the city's deputy mayor, and a panel discussion about the lasting effects of the riot.

Peter Elliott, the rector of the church and dean of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, said society needs to learn from the riot.

"As we remember the events of June 15, 2011, our memory moves, of course, to the images seared in our minds of the violence and destruction that surfaced shortly after the end of Game 7. It's important I think to remember, because if we don't, it will happen again," Elliott told the service.

"Even more importantly, we need to remember June 16, 2011, as hundreds of citizens came out and helped clean up the streets and wrote messages of hope on the boards that covered the broken store windows. We want to celebrate that spirit so that it might flourish in our cities and our province and our country."

Laurie Demptser, a 55-year-old member of the church, attended Friday's service. Demptser recalled watching the riot unfold on a TV screen in a take-out food shop in the city's east side where she had stopped on the way home that night.

"I hung out there and I was wanting to watch and not wanting to watch at the same time," Demptser said in an interview after the service.

"I love Vancouver, and to me it didn't seem like Vancouver."

A year later, Demptser agreed the real legacy of the riot was how it brought the city together.

"That made me feel an awful lot better, that a whole lot of people came quickly and came to clean up," she said.

"I feel that's something that makes a difference, and I think it has made a difference."

The Vancouver police also used the anniversary to announced charges against 10 new suspects.

Crown counsel has now approved charges against 114 people. So far, 23 have pleaded guilty, but only two of them have been sentenced.

The Vancouver police have predicted more than 300 will eventually be charged.