Gagging citizens for the 2010 Olympics > Vancouver Sun (with comment)

Gagging citizens for the 2010 Olympics

[note: reposted for historical record from archived link]


Nobody wants some embarrassing incident during the 2010 Winter Games that will give Vancouver a black-eye in the global community. Afterall, we’re spending billions of dollars to put on a Winter Games aimed at boosting Canadian pride and celebrating the skills of our athletes.

But the politicians have got it wrong if they think that they’re not embarrassing us by giving police, security forces or any designated municipal employee in Vancouver, Richmond and Whistler the extraordinary power to enter people’s homes and take down any “advertising-matter”— albeit with 24 hours’ notice.

What’s particularly offensive about this draconian power is that no one is willing to define exactly what “advertising-matter” is. Does it include Tibetan flags? Does it only mean Pepsi posters since Coke is an Olympic top sponsor?  Does it mean Olympic rings coupled with anti-Games slogans?

Instead Vancouver’s bylaw (which I wrote about in the summer) and the bill currently before the B.C. legislature leaves the defining to the discretion of whoever might be designated to enforce this.

The municipalities and the province are also poised to increase the penalty for sign offenders to $10,000 from $2,000 and up to six months in jail.

As Robert Holmes, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association points out, six months in jail is usually reserved for criminals, who have a record of several conviction for breaking and entering.

And isn’t this rich? When I went searching for a copy of the province’s Bill 13, I found the government’s contest for middle and secondary students to produce a video to celebrate the International Day of Democracy. The contest ends Nov. 15 and the grand prize is. . . a trip to Victoria and a tour of the legislature.

Here’s part of what the contest promotion says: “Democracy is dependent on the expression of ideas and a culture of tolerance. Political tolerance implies freedom of expression, open dialogue and a diversity of views. It is the role of democractic [sic] institutions, such as parliament, to mediate tensions between diverging opinions and to accommodate the participation of all sectors of society.”   

I’m betting that any student tackling the issue of free expression during the Olympics won’t be winning that exciting trip to see our provincial politicians in action.

Comment from DaveO:

Great to see this authentic reporting on an issue which is being glossed over and marginalized. Vancouver city + Fed and Province have compromised our rights as Canadians to the IOC. I suggest the IOC need to be re-assess their value is to a community and the host jurisdictions need to realize that thwarting rights of expression and assembly will leave a more negative impression than any social problems, ambush advertising and political speech. While the authorities pay lip service about “free speech zones” and say that the by-laws and legislation is to protect strictly against advertising, they make no assurance to ensure that “non-celebratory” people will not be harassed, fined and jailed. Sad time for all of us (and bear in mind, i am an Olympic SPORT enthusiast) which will tarnish Canada and Vancouver’s reputations as a progressive place where we solve problems, not hide them.