Opinion Column

Mayor's Day of Laughter proclamation is tone-deaf

By Ada Slivinski, 24 Hours Vancouver

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. (24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. (24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

While wildfires rage near 100 Mile House and Williams Lake, forcing people to leave their homes, Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson is busy proclaiming the official “Day of Laughter.”

On a day when people fleeing the area affected by wildfires - some of them coming south to Vancouver and looking for a place to stay, our city’s mayor will quite literally be laughing for a photo-op.

Chinese artist Yue Minjun, the man who created English Bay’s sculpture of 14 laughing bronze men - all of which are designed after his own likeness - will be here on his first visit and The Vancouver Biennale has created a public event around his visit where Vancouverites and visitors will be encouraged to laugh and take selfies.

The mayor will issue his proclamation and then attendees will be encouraged to participate in an outdoor laughter yoga class. It's all taking place this Thursday, July 13 at 10 a.m. It all sounds pretty good: laughter, yoga, public art and I understand the value of a good official day as much as the next person - maybe more so since I work in public relations. However, the part that strikes me as tone-deaf is the mayor’s involvement.

All around Metro Vancouver, churches, businesses and community centres have signs of support for and solidarity with those in the fire path. Vancouver’s firefighters have been deployed to help up north. Those coming to Vancouver need a place to stay and basic necessities to get them through the next few weeks until they can return home. Instead of using his position to draw donations, he chooses a day of laughter and yoga on a sunny beach.

Of course, many critics will say it doesn’t have to be either or, but imagine those fleeing fires turning on the news Thursday evening and after watching images of their communities burn, they see Vancouver’s mayor laughing and taking a selfie. As B.C. burns, Gregor laughs, and that’s an image that will be tough for the mayor to live down.