Stanley Cup riot anniversary: Vancouver still recovering

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Riots are something cities usually prefer to forget, but Vancouver has tried to turn the one-year anniversary of the Stanley Cup riot into a positive commemoration.

Yes, there are complaints about how long it's taking to get the dozens of people charged so far through the court system. Only two people have been convicted.

And businesses and their employees are still dealing with the after-effects of the trauma.

But the city has chosen to mark the event as an example of how residents came together after those few hours where drunken hooligans owned the streets.

A noon commemoration was held Friday, the June 15 riot anniversary date at Christ Church Anglican Cathedral downtown, which was in the heart of the turmoil.

[Related: Stanley Cup riot one year later: 'Kissing Couple' still kissing]

The city has brought out the plywood used to cover broken windows at The Bay department store, which residents covered with sympathetic and apologetic messages in the days after the riot. Since they were taken down they've been kept at the Museum of Vancouver and now form the centrepiece of an art exhibition, Reading the Riot Boards.

The riot spawned a small explosion of art, the Globe and Mail reported.

Victoria philanthropist Miles Craig is using the anniversary to launch the Canadian Temperance Foundation, aimed to promote alcohol and drug abstinence, The Canadian Press reported.

"When I saw the riot unfold on TV, I came to the realization that it was probably caused by alcohol and drug misuse," said Craig.

[Related video: Vancouver remembers Stanley Cup riot]

But the dark heart of that night will remain visible, too, perhaps for years as the justice system deals with what Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu thinks will be more than 300 individuals facing more than 900 charges. Any trials aren't likely to start until next year.

"We believe this is the greatest number of people charged with a crime arising from one incident in Canadian history," Chu said in a statement.

Photos and video taken by smart phones have played an important part in the police investigation. The posted images led to many accused being identified and prompted others to turn themselves in.

Chu has appealed for help in identifying his 10 most-wanted unidentified rioters, especially the sole remaining unknown participant in the beating of Robert Mackay, who was swarmed by 15 people as he tried to prevent vandalism.

"It is unusual (that no one has identified him yet)," said Insp. Laurence Rankin, who now heads the Integrated Riot Investigation Team, said in the Vancouver Province. "It could be that he lives outside of the Lower Mainland or in the States. It makes you wonder where he is from."

[Related: Fallout continues a year after Vancouver's Stanley Cup riots]

The effect of the riot on police officers and innocent people caught up in the violence continues to exact a cost.

The National Post reported 24 of 51 riot-related worker compensation claims filed to WorkSafeBC were accepted. And while only four were for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the payouts ranged from $71,000 to $117,000.

The Post reported 18 Vancouver police officers and one firefighter were assaulted but officials would not reveal how many claimed PTSD. Other injury claims from officers included concussions, bruises, muscle strains and burns.

One of the lingering questions has been whether the entire ugly event could have been prevented, especially given the availability of a post-mortem for Vancouver's 1994 Stanley Cup riot.

Mayor Gregor Robertson, echoed by senior police officers, initially claimed "anarchists" and "purposeful vandals" were responsible sparking the mayhem.

One year and four post-riot reviews later, he's not as certain.

"Well, not necessarily 'anarchists,' " Robertson told the Globe and Mail. "I think there was some discrepancy about the politics of that. There certainly were hooligans with equipment to start a riot and they did so at two separate locations downtown."