FOX WARNS AMERICANS ABOUT 'VANSTERDAM'
Vancouver Board Of Trade More Concerned About Property Crime Than Drug
VANCOUVER - "U.S. wary of Van-sterdam," reads the outraged headline on the
Fox News website.
"There's a street in Vancouver that makes San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury
look G-rated," continues the story. "One bar's motto is 'This is a
respectable joint.' Many bars even have a 'munchies' menu for post
pot-smoking eating binges."
The street is Hastings, and Fox News, the ultra-right-wing champion of
George W. Bush, big tax cuts and the war in Iraq, has discovered it. And it
doesn't like what it sees.
"It's because of this nickname that Vancouver has been named 'Vansterdam'.
Vancouver's mayor wants to legalize marijuana, but wants the governor [sic]
to grow, sell and tax it to keep it out of the hands of criminals and to
raise money for drug treatment programs."
A TV report to the same effect was broadcast to Fox New viewers across the
U.S. on Wednesday. Spokesman Rob Zimmerman says during any 24-hour period,
800,000 people watch the channel at any time of the day.
It's not the first time Vancouver has been referred to as Vansterdam, a
play on Amsterdam, one of the most liberal of European cities.
The New York Times used the moniker because of our comparatively lax laws
on drugs and sex. For example, it said, Vancouver exotic dancers, male and
female, need not wear nipple tassels, pasties or G-strings here, the way
they do in U.S. cities.
The Fox report came only a day before incoming Vancouver Board of Trade
chairman Graeme Stamp said high rates of property crime, panhandling and
squeegee kids are damaging the city's international reputation.
"If we really want to see how great this city and region can be, we need to
fix these problems," said Stamp, who is also executive vice-president of
Fairmont Developments Ltd. "We need to keep demanding answers from our
Pointing out that Vancouver has a higher property crime rate than any city
in Canada or the U.S., Stamp said the city doesn't have enough police
officers to deal with the problem.
"Less than 10 per cent of property crimes are solved and even more
frustrating, the repeat offenders continually get weak sentences." The cost
of property crime i
n the city in 2002 was $128 million which was borne
mostly by individual households.
But for Simon Fraser University urban geographer Warren Gill, the
Vansterdam tag is evidence of what he believes is the desirable reputation
Vancouver has as a place to live and let live.
While not condoning drug use, Gill says Vancouver's high population of
"bohemians" makes it a "liberal, edgy kind of place," and that liberalism
translates into the city's success as a tolerant and socially progressive
place to live.
"I take it as a positive because Amsterdam's a very positive city," Gill
said. "It has a wonderful urban character, so I think that's admirable.
Whether it will alienate right-wing Americans, I don't think so."
None of the U.S. tourists interviewed by The Vancouver Sun on Thursday said
it deterred them.
In fact, Tim Pasquarello of Boston said it was one of the main reasons he
wanted to visit.
"I think it has a reputation of being more environmentally aware and
socially just," he said.
Jeff Hardy, from Puyallup, Wash., also said he knew that Vancouver laws
regarding marijuana are more liberal than they are where he lives -- a
place he described as "much more conservative" -- but it had no effect on
his decision to bring his family here for a holiday.
Rosemarie Bayless of Colorado Springs said she had heard someone say
Vancouver had a reputation for being socially liberal.
As far as she and her husband, Chuck, are concerned, "It's a really nice
city," she said. "Beautiful."
Representatives of Tourism Vancouver say the city's liberal attitudes are
not something they use to market the place. Nor is it something they try to
Instead, they focus on the basics -- "the beauty, the proximity to the
Pacific, the friendliness," says Stephen Pearce, vice-president of leisure
travel and destination management.
"When [Americans] come here, they're always amazed by the destination
itself and the way they're treated."
They also appreciate Vancouver's diverse ethnic mix, he says.
"When they actually see the ethnic richness of the city, it really blows