Libby Davies was part of a story earlier this week when Insite activists blockaded a community centre in Vancouver, and the Prime Minister's press secretary accused her of being the ringleader. I spoke to Davies today from her riding in Vancouver.
Q: Tell me all about what happened at this demonstration.
A: From my point of you, it was just your usual, peaceful demonstration, and as happens in many instances, people in the community alert me to things that are going on, so somebody told me that Harper was coming to town. When he usually comes – especially if he comes to the Downtown Eastside – there’s always a protest. They should expect that because people are so hopping mad at him for a whole bunch of things, but one of them being Insite. My office, we were told there was going to be a little protest, a sort of “welcoming committee,” and did I want to go, and I said sure. I’ve always supported Insite – I’ve gone to rallies and demos and protests in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Toronto.
I headed down, and first of all, it was no more than a hundred people there, and I was really impressed that so many people came out on such short notice, because I think it was literally a few hours that morning that they organised it. They did put the building around with that yellow police caution tape, but the way the building is, there’s a kind of overhand and walkway, so the tape was actually around the pillars. The police were just lifting it up and down and walking in and out, and I didn’t know until I left, and later when I saw the pictures that someone had taped up the doors and put a bicycle lock chain on a couple of the doors. There were other doors, and all the fire exits were clear. I guess the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson, Mr. Dimitri Soudas, he just let out a storm, and I actually feel outraged by what he did, because he – as he has on many other occasions – completely without foundation fabricated this whole story that a) I organised the demonstration, and b) I was inciting people to violence, and that people were being terrorised, and this was the language that he was using, and I didn’t know any of this until I actually was heading back to the office. I eventually left, because we didn’t know whether Harper was there or not. The demonstration was peaceful – there were a few city cops, a few RCMP showed up, and they didn’t do anything that I could see. I learned later that the police actually did go, take this chain off the door – it must have been on another side of the building. In any event, it was a peaceful rally, so the response from the Prime Minister’s Office is completely uncalled for. It’s completely inappropriate – he even began to question why I was there. “Should an MP be at a protest?” First of all, he has no right to question what an MP does – that’s for me and my constituents to determine. I ended up doing a fair amount of media and pushing back on the guy. We’ve actually called on him – there was a press release out today –
Q: I did get that through the Press Gallery.
A: It was saying that he should be retracting his comments because this is a pattern that this man has. I feel very angry at what he did. As far as I’m concerned, I was doing my job – I was there supporting my constituents, and supporting Insite. And of course, this all just detracts from the issue, which is why are they appealing yet another court decision and taking Insite all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. And of course, if there are any other protests for Insite and support, I’ll continue to be there. I said to some of the media in Vancouver, I’ve gone to rallies and demonstrations for peace, against war, for Insite, for housing – for 35 years. This is who I am. I’m not going to let some crazy guy in the PMO who’s way over the top tell me what I should or shouldn’t do, or charge me erroneously with inciting violence and organising a rally that clearly I did not.
Q: I wanted to make sure I got it from the horse’s mouth.
A: Well there it is.
Q: Opening ceremonies are tonight – how is your Olympic vigilance in terms of keeping an eye on everything that’s going on?
A: It’s been interesting. I’ve been down at the W2 social media centre, which is great. It’s great – it’s just across from Woodward’s, it’s an old four-story building. There’s a tonne of independent social media, so I’m not going to the opening ceremonies. I’m not even sure if I’m going to the rally this afternoon, unfortunately my office booked appointments, so I’m trying to see if I can shuffle things around, but I will be going to the Women’s Memorial March on Sunday. I’m going to another women’s march on Monday about housing, that’s related to the Olympics. I was at the Poverty Olympics last Sunday, which was amazing. A huge crowd, and the Poverty Olympic torch came down the street made out of papier maché. There was lots of international media there, and folks from the Downtown Eastside there, but people from elsewhere as well. There’s so much that’s going on, it’s unbelievable. There’s lots of security around, and I’m just sitting parked on the street right now, and there’s police and security forces all around. It’s a very busy time.