Just a few days after the public first received notice, and after a secret meeting between the City of Vancouver, the Government of China (Consulate) and Falun Gong (which had been protesting in front of the consulate), at a Regular Council meeting on April 19, 2011, Vancouver City Council (with Vision Vancouver voting as one bloc) passed an amended staff report that could have long-term and serious negative implications for freedom of speech and political expression in Vancouver. If passed as originally presented, it would have put a law on the books that could have a serious chilling effect on the freedom of speech. Even so, it is still highly problematic. We have seen how the City selectively enforces its bylaws. While enforcement may be soft initially, a future regime could suddenly enforce the letter of the law — with serious damage to democratic rights. A sudden outcry by a few groups and citizens over the weekend forced Vision Vancouver to make a few changes, but still not enough. After the meeting, Vision issued a statement spinning the decision as creating the most progressive municipal law in North America to permit freedom of speech. A future City Council must revisit and revise this bylaw to reinstate more democratic rules and prevent future abuses of the law.
See this webpage for final text of the Street and Traffic By-law amendment (in the downloadable minutes), plus related documents and video of debate. We will provide more analysis of this issue in due course.
This page compiles links to relevant materials and web posts.
- For all postings on CityHallWatch on this topic, click “Political expression” on the “tag cloud” at lower right of this page.
- Statement by Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver, April 18, 2011, here.
- BC Civil Liberties Association media release (April 18, 2011) says “The BCCLA says that the new bylaw proposal is still unconstitutional and wants the City to hold off enacting a law that is sure to land back up in court.”
- VSPN story about how the amended bylaw could have a chilling effect on freedom of speech: http://vancouverpublicspace.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/a-parable-about-small-boxes/
- Video of Vancouver City City Council discussing the original draft of the staff report on April 7:
- Background by VSPN:
- BC Civil Liberties Association is covering this issue: http://bccla.org/
- Agenda (with links to official documents) for City Council meeting on this topic, 9:30 am, Tuesday, April 19, here.
- More coming …