Immediate Release: Dec 11, 2009

As reported today in the Globe and Mail, the City of Vancouver has asked a local gallery to remove an outdoor mural, part of an art installation that has been hanging since September 25. It depicts the five Olympic rings with sad faces and one happy face – written on a chalkboard that has frequently had other images and words on it.

This move by the city comes in the wake of concerns by COPE, the BC Civil Liberties Association, other community groups and residents around the so-called “free speech” Olympic by-laws.

Amendments originally proposed by COPE and rejected in the first reading of the by-laws in the summer, were incorporated into the new version of the bylaws passed last week. One of these amendments differentiated between commercial advertising and political expression.

City Council was assured by staff that political – and artistic – expression would not be targeted. According to Councillor Woodsworth, “I remained skeptical about the by-laws and that skepticism seems to be justified.”

Woodsworth proposed a preamble to the bylaws last week to guarantee that Olympic protest signs would not be impacted. The amendment had identical wording to what was passed by council in the recommendations, which aren’t legally binding. The amendment was defeated.

Woodsworth continues, “if the request from the City to remove this mural is what it seems to be – a curtailment of free expression – I will fight as hard as I can.” Woodsworth will be asking the City Manager for comment at the Council meeting this Tuesday.

COPE fears around free speech coming true at local gallery

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