The BCCLA has written to ask Translink and the Transit Police to investigate allegations that the transit system has again infringed on basic free expression rights. A group of political activists distributing a free publication that discusses international political issues allege that they were arrested and 150 of their newspapers seized in the common area of Metrotown Skytrain Station. They were released without charge, but did not get their newspapers back. Translink’s posted rules, and the BCCLA’s understanding of free expression rights protected under the Charter, permit the distribution of non-commercial information at Skytrain stations in common areas.
“We’re disappointed to be writing, again, to Translink on an apparent free expression issue,” said Lindsay Lyster, President of the BCCLA. “Translink and the Transit Police must investigate these allegations and, if necessary, retrain their staff to remind them that their jobs as public officials are not just to tolerate free expression, but also to facilitate it.”
Last year, the BCCLA wrote to Translink and the Transit Police expressing concern when a transit police officer removed a woman from the public transit system for wearing a button he found offensive. The BCCLA intervened in litigation against Translink’s policy of requiring all “political” content to be removed from advertising before it would be approved. The Supreme Court of Canada ordered Translink to permit political advertising. During the Olympics, the BCCLA and the Transit Police worked together to correct a flyer distributed by the Transit Police in error that suggested that merchants should call police if individuals appeared to be protesters.
“Given Translink’s challenging history around free expression, we would expect they would work extra hard to ensure free expression was protected and facilitated,” said Lindsay Lyster, President of the BCCLA. “That we find ourselves in a situation again where a group of people distributing a free political newspaper are alleging that their basic and protected free expression rights were violated, and their property seized, is very troubling.”