As the only two city councilors to vote against the Olympic by-law changes passed by city council and now in front of the legislature, COPE Councillors Ellen Woodsworth and David Cadman are pleased that council will have another chance to look at the laws.
The by-laws, which have been under intense scrutiny from organizations like the BC Civil Liberties Association over concerns around freedom of speech, are currently in front of the legislature to give the City more power to deal with Olympic sponsorship agreement infringements.
At the initial vote on the motion at City Council, Councilor Woodsworth moved an amendment that council direct staff to include a direction to the Province to ensure the amendments would be viewed with regard to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protect the freedom of speech of citizens. She also asked for clarification that these charter changes be limited to the duration of the Olympics.
Councillor Cadman moved an amendment to allow for a complete list of by-law changes to be brought forward, including any that may come about as a result of Provincial Charter changes and to allow the BC Civil Liberties and Advisory Committee to review and comment on the changes to ensure respect for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms before adoption, with particular attention to the seven by-law changes which the BC Civil Liberties indicated might be subject to constitutional challenge.
The COPE amendments were defeated by council and, subsequently, the BCCLA initiated a lawsuit.
Councillors Cadman and Woodsworth will be re-introducing some of their initial amendments and proposing that language be fine-tuned to clarify that the by-laws refer to commercial expression only.
According to Councillor Woodsworth “there has been a public outcry over these by-laws and concerns over civil liberties and the Olympics. When ideas like “free speech zones” are tossed around by security leaders such as Bud Mercer, it’s incredibly important for Vancouver City Council to take a clear position. Under the Charter of Rights and Freedom we are guaranteed free speech at all times.”