Writers’ Union protests treatment of Olympics critic

The Writers’ Union of Canada has sent an open letter to Gary Lunn, federal Minister of State for Sports, expressing concern about the way two members of the Integrated Securities Unit (ISU) questioned Dr. Chris Shaw, author of a book critical of the upcoming Vancouver Olympics.

According to the letter the two officers approached Dr. Shaw, author of Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games, as he was leaving a Vancouver coffee shop on June 3. One, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, said he did not like the content of the book. The two then questioned Dr. Shaw for 10 minutes, asking what he knew about planned demonstrations against the Olympics. He declined to answer and ended the conversation.

According to a report in Quill and Quire, the officers also asked Shaw for a private meeting, which he declined.

The letter calls it disturbing that a member of the securities unit told an author he was questioning that he disapproved of the author’s work. “Such behaviour, coming from a person carrying out a security function, appears to have been purposively intimidating,” the letter says.

The Vancouver Sun reports that the Writers’ Union investigated the incident after receiving a complaint from a member. Shaw is not a member of the Writers’ Union. The Sun also reports that Shaw had complained to the newspaper earlier after he and several American guests were stopped by officers earlier this year.

Shaw told the Sun that while he didn’t feel intimidated by the incident, he could see how others would, and he appreciated the Writers’ Union’s letter.

And he told Quill and Quire that he views the incident as part of a campaign of harassment against him and other critics of the Vancouver games.

A column by Daphne Bramham in the Sun reports several other incidents involving law enforcement and Olympics critics, under the headline Canadians Shouldn’t Accept Repressive Olympic Security.

Shaw was also detained for an hour at Heathrow airport in London on June 7, where a Home Office representative questioned him about a talk he was scheduled to give at a conference on sport in Coventry. He told the Straight that “something came up on her [the officer’s] screen, and then the questions started.” Shaw said he will continue to speak out despite the incidents.

In an interview with Rabble.ca, Shaw discusses some of the points he makes in the controversial book.