Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Olympics bylaw changes please civil liberties group

Proposed changes to controversial Olympics bylaws should allay free speech concerns, Vancouver officials hope.

“The city was never intending under any scenario to kick down doors and take fridge magnets off people’s fridges,” Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs told reporters today.

An amended bylaw package will go to city council next week. It makes a clear distinction between commercial and political speech. That was a key concern for the B.C. Civil Liberties Assocation, which was recently consulted by the city.

"I don’t mind responding to public criticism if it means that people have a better sense that we're upholding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Meggs said.

Controversy flamed last July when Vancouver councillors approved temporary Games-time bylaw changes. In part, legislation granted greater powers to restrict unauthorized leafleting and signage during the Olympics.

An October provincial amendment gave Vancouver, Richmond and Whistler the power to remove illegal signs within 24 hours and seek up to $10,000 in fines.

City officials said the bylaws were a needed weapon in the fight against ambush marketers. They argued illegal advertising threatens the rights of Olympics sponsors who provide essential operating revenue.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association said broad legal language made it potentially illegal to protest the Games. Concern was so high that anti-Olympics critics Chris Shaw and Alissa Westergard-Thorpe filed a lawsuit against Vancouver in the B.C. Supreme Court.

If new amendments announced today get council approval, the city will have no special powers to limit political expression. People still need permits to erect signs under long-existing Vancouver bylaws.

But unauthorized political signs – which could include critiques of the Games – will not be removed within 24 hours. Instead, a standard 30-day notice will apply. That is, unless signs pose a risk to people’s health and safety.

“Were broadly pleased with the amendments,” BCCLA executive director David Eby said. “We think they’re a step in the right direction and they address many of our concerns.”

Eby wasn’t sure if Shaw and Westergard-Thorpe would now withdraw their lawsuit against the city. The BCCLA -- which was supporting the action -- will meet with them shortly to discuss options.

Proposed bylaw changes also reduce the geographic area and time limit of restrictions. And they remove provisions that would have given city manager Penny Ballem the power to make binding decisions during the Games, officials said today.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus