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Plan to change city bylaws is unconstitutional: BCCLA

Vancouver city council should think twice before asking the legislature for another 16 Vancouver Charter amendments, says the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

A Dec. 17 staff report, to be considered at today's council meeting, recommends changing the civic constitution to allow more advertising in parks, temporary street closures, relaxation of noise controls, removal of graffiti and signage from private property, and restrictions on sidewalk vendors, buskers and flyer distributors.

The amendments are driven by the 2010 Winter Olympics but would not be restricted to Games-time. Fines, which are capped at $50 a day under section 333, would be hiked to $10,000.

B.C. Civil Liberties Association acting executive director David Eby said the amendments could restrict speech that is critical of the Olympics.

"In this attempt to deal with ambush marketing they're going to catch a bunch of other fish in that net, fish that are entitled to be where they're swimming thanks to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Eby said. "They're casting their net way too wide. The chilling effect of something like a $10,000 fine is going to be fairly significant."

Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs denied the amendments will impact freedom of speech.

"These are about controlling inappropriate commercial activities," said Meggs, who will introduce his Olympic Accountability motion at today's meeting to urge VANOC to hold the community consultations on Games-time security that were promised in 2003. The Vancouver Public Space Network also objects to the bylaw change.

"It's dismaying to think we will have a whole whack of corporate advertising and branding apparatus spread in the public spaces in the city," said director Andrew Pask. "That's not something we're in favour of."

Bob Mackin reports for Vancouver's 24 hours.

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