The BCCLA has filed a policy complaint with the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner following a Transit Police officer barring a Skytrain passenger who declined to remove a button that said “Fuck Yoga”. The passenger had been removed following a fare check. When the passenger purchased a fare and attempted to return, the officer would not let her return because she would not remove the button.
“Wearing a button doesn‟t break the law. Transit‟s approach opens it to ridicule,” said Robert Holmes, President of the BCCLA. “What about books that contain the F- word that people read on the bus? What about clothing or shopping bags from FCUK? What about people who say the F- word while talking in a normal speaking voice to a friend on the bus or Skytrain?”
The passenger filed a complaint with the OPCC and the transit police conducted an investigation of themselves, unsurprisingly clearing the officer involved. The OPCC reviewed the police self investigation and, surprisingly, upheld the censorship. The official reason given was that Translink had a rule against “foul, insulting, abusive or inappropriate language.”
“Both the OPCC and Translink ignored that the “language‟ here was not shouted out, caused no disturbance and was merely on a button,” said Holmes. No mention was made whether FCUK on a button or T-shirt or “I Love Tantric Yoga” would be allowed.
“About 40 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court found that wearing a jacket saying “Fuck the Draft‟ was protected speech,” said Holmes. “Our Courts have told Translink that controversial, and even offensive political ads are as protected as well. Personal expression is fundamental as a freedom.”
The BCCLA complaint is asking that the Transit Police clarify and revise their policy on free speech in the transit system, consistent with section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
David Eby, Executive Director, (778) 865-7997
Robert Holmes, President, (604) 838-6856
Jean Wharf, Transit Passenger, (778) 968-4519 (Note to editors, only available until 1:30 p.m.)