For Immediate Release: April 7, 2011
COPE Councillor Woodsworth to Oppose Protest By-Law Restricting Free Speech and Artistic Freedoms
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) City Councillor Ellen Woodsworth will be opposing a new by-law at this afternoon’s City Council meeting. The proposed by-law would severely impact civil liberties, freedom of speech, and artistic expression in public areas.
“This is the Olympic free speech zones all over again,” said Woodsworth who lead the charge in reversing the most draconian provisions of Olympic-related signage bylaws in the lead up to last year’s games. “Much like the by-laws that were first introduced for the Olympics, this bylaw clearly goes too far and must be reworked.”
Woodsworth stressed that under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms we are guaranteed free speech at all times, but setting up what amounts to free speech zones effectively restricts freedom of expression. The bylaw would restrict the types, length, and area of many protests. By banning all protest structures in residential areas, the bylaw also seems to bar activities outside almost all diplomatic offices.
“Some of the most important examples of protest in our city’s history that have sparked public debate and political change would be banned under this bylaw,” said Woodsworth. “For a city that just yesterday celebrated our 125th birthday to now be considering something that is an affront to a strong history of peaceful social change is very disappointing.”
Woodsworth also questioned why such a far-reaching and potentially stifling by-law was introduced with only a couple days notice to Councillors and without any public consultation. “Yet again we’re seeing a critical piece of policy being introduced with little lead time, and with no public consultation.”