Home / Advocacy groups call on Mayor and Council to reject proposal to regulate public expression

Advocacy groups call on Mayor and Council to reject proposal to regulate public expression

VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN) and BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) are jointly calling on the City of Vancouver to reject proposed changes to the City’s Street and Traffic Bylaw.

The amendments, outlined in a staff report on “Public Expression” would serve to constrain political activity in the City by requiring upwards of $1,200 in upfront fees and permitting costs for any political or non-commercial activity that utilizes a “structure, object, substance or thing” in the course of message making.

The proposed changes will be bundled into the existing Street and Traffic bylaw. They are the result of a court case in which the City lost in its attempt to limit Falun Gong protests in front of the Chinese consulate.

The proposed amendments do not expressly ban structures and other “things,” but makes it highly impractical for certain kinds of demonstrations to go forward because of limitations that include
– A refundable security of $1,000 for removal of the structure;
– A maximum of four demonstration permits per year;
– Payment of $200 application fee to cover costs of application review ($50 fee for permit renewal of same structure and location);
– A guarantee that there will be no structures on city streets between 8pm and 8am.

According to Andrew Pask, Director of the VPSN, “these proposed amendments could constrain everything from anti-HST tables to salmon-farming displays to anti-war vigils… anything, in essence, that utilizes more than a placard to help get the message out.”

According to Micheal Vonn, Policy Director of the BCCLA, “the new process would prove to be a major impediment to a whole array of voices – smaller organizations, unfunded initiatives, poverty activism, grassroots tabling activities, and a spectrum of the sort of important messaging that we need in a democratic society.”

The proposed report is available online at http://vancouver.ca and will be debated tomorrow, Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 2:00pm at the City Services and Budget meeting, City Hall, 453. West 12th Avenue.

Micheal Vonn, Policy Director, BC Civil Liberties Association – 604-630-9753
Andrew Pask, Director, Vancouver Public Space Network – 778-239-7544