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Olympics critics file lawsuit against Vancouver

Two anti-Olympics critics want to take Vancouver to court over a contentious bylaw package approved last July.

The temporary Games-time measures passed by city council violate Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Five Ring Circus author Chris Shaw and Olympics Resistance Network member Alissa Westergard-Thorpe will argue.

“The Restrictive Provisions deny and are an infringement and an anticipatory infringement of the right to free expression,” reads a statement of claim filed today in B.C. Supreme Court. “[They] cannot be justified in a free and democratic society.”

The lawsuit is being lauded by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which has long argued the bylaws amount to a civil rights clampdown.

Last July, council passed a series of restrictions that will limit unauthorized commercial activity around venues, pedestrian corridors and other Olympics-related areas.

Sponsors pay a lot of money to promote their companies through the Games, and their rights need to protected, VANOC has argued.

Today’s court filing takes aim at certain parts of the bylaw package. Section 104 prohibits “advertising matter” such as pamphlets or handbills in Olympics areas.

A person can’t erect a sign in these places unless it’s “a celebratory sign or wayfaring sign authorized by VANOC or the city,” the section reads.

Violations of the bylaws could result in fines up to $2,000.

During the Games, Shaw intends to distribute information that will help boost sales of his book, according to his statement. The book is highly critical of the Olympics.

Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs said the bylaws were developed in conjunction with the city’s legal staff.

“We’re confident they’ll withstand the test,” he said. “But we welcome the challenge.”

Meggs applauded Shaw, Westergard-Thorpe and the BCCLA for their passion as civil rights watchdogs. He said it’s up to the courts to decide what happens next.

“If the court feels changes are necessary then obviously we’ll make them,” Meggs said.

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee.

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