AW@L protests Olympics

On Friday, student activist group Anti-War at Laurier (AW@L) staged a protest outside of the Royal Bank of Commerce (RBC) branch at King Street and University Avenue. The group was protesting RBC’s sponsorship of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, which, as The Cord reported last month, AW@L is strongly opposed to.

AW@L’s main arguments against the Olympics focus on the negative environmental and social aspects that the games bring about, such as destruction of natural habitats and the demolition of low-income housing.

They targeted RBC not only because of its involvement with the Olympics but also because of its financial contributions to the Alberta tar sands.

“RBC is one of the biggest financiers of the tar sands, as well as one of the main sponsors of the Olympics and specifically the torch relay,” said Laurier student and AW@L member Adam Lewis.
“We wanted to raise education and draw connections between things like the Olympics and the tar sands and the fact that the companies who are involved have their hand in myriad of things that cause destruction.”

AW@L has been critical of this year’s Olympics being praised for its environmental consciousness because they feel that there is still a massive amount of destruction being done to the environment in order to prepare for the games. The group also feels that companies like RBC are taking on a “green” image while still contributing to the decline of the environment.

“This year’s Olympics has been called the ‘green Olympics’ but you can’t have a green Olympics when 125,000 trees have been cut down in Whistler to make room for new facilities,” said Lewis. “I think the same thing has happened with RBC; they’re trying to put on this face that they’re going green, but at the same time they’re one of the primary financiers of the tar sands.… That fact alone screams hypocrisy on their part.”

While AW@L’s protesters were unable to get through to anyone involved with RBC, they feel the action was a success.

“From our standpoint, the action was successful; we got a fairly good response from the people we were talking to on the street,” said Lewis. “They were interested and surprised that RBC had these kind of connections. Our goal for this kind of action is to get that information out there and let people see that there’s these kinds of things going on behind the scenes.”

According to Lewis, other local activist groups are planning weekly action against RBC for their sponsorship of the Olympics. Whether or not AW@L will be involved in those actions is unclear; however, Lewis maintains that the group will continue to protest the Olympics as the games draw closer.

“We’re definitely building towards the Olympics, and RBC will be one of our focal points,” he said. “Right now we’re looking at what the best use of our resources will be, but we’re definitely planning on taking concerted action against the torch relay when it comes to Kitchener.”

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