Free speech lawsuit against Vancouver Olympic rules

Shawn sez, "The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association is aiding two activists in suing the City of Vancouver over a 2010 Olympic bylaw which may encroach on free speech and violate Canada's Charter of Rights."

With David Eby of The B.C. Civil Liberties Association representing them, Chris Shaw, a UBC professor of ophthalmology, neuroscientist (and Vancouver Observer blogger), and The Olympic Resistance Network's Alissa Westergard-Thorp,announced this morning that they have filed a statement of claim against the City of Vancouver in the Supreme Court of BC. Their lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of an Olympic bylaw limiting free speech during the 2010 Winter Games that was passed by council in July, Eby told reporters this morning.

The BBCLA, with plaintiffs Shaw and Westergard-Thorp, claim their rights to free speech and freedom of movement will be denied once the Winter Games by-laws passed by city council take effect. They say the bylaws, commonly referred to as the omnibus bylaws, will infringe their Charter rights and are unconstitutional....

The bylaw includes a passage entitled "prohibitions regarding city land," which includes a clause that will almost surely trigger a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge. Clause 4B makes it illegal during the Winter Games without authorization to:

"(a) bring onto city land any
(i) weapon,
(ii) object, including any rock, stick, or glass or metal bottle useable as a weapon, except for crutches or a cane that a person who is elderly or disabled uses as a mobility aid,
(iii) large object, including any bag, or luggage that exceeds 23 x 40 x 55 centimetres;
(iv) voice amplification equipment including any megaphone,
(v) motorized vehicle, except for a motorized wheel chair or scooter that a person who is elderly or disabled uses as a mobility aid,
(vi) anything that makes noise that interferes with the enjoyment of entertainment on city land by other persons,
(vii) distribute any advertising material or install or carry any sign unless licensed to do so by the city."

Protest signs usually are made using sticks, often are larger than subsection (iii) allows (as are puppets and other protest devices), demonstrations almost always employ megaphones or other voice amplification devices, and can well "interfere with the enjoyment" of the Olympic spectacle by who chose to be so offended. Protesters often pass out leaflets as well. Thus, any of the dozens of protests I've attended over the last few years would easily be in violation of five of seven subsections.

BCCLA Files Lawsuit Against City For Violation of Charter Rights, VO Blogger Chris Shaw Key Plaintiff (Thanks, Shawn!)

(Image: Support the 2010 Games, a Creative Commons Attribution image from Silly Gweilo's Flickr stream)

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