BCCLA Legal Observers

From a BC Civil Liberties Association website:

The Olympics have an unfortunate history of being associated with government activities that repress dissenting voices and “undesirable” populations. In China, dissidents and potential protesters were detained and silenced. In Atlanta and Sydney, homeless people were harassed and displaced by security teams.

Here in Vancouver, people who have written letters to VANOC, gone to city hall to express Olympic related concerns, and even some who visited independent book-stores, have been the targets for increased scrutiny by the Olympic Integrated Security Unit. Our province has proposed legislation that would allow police, arbitrarily, to move homeless people out of high traffic tourist areas and into homeless shelters. Vancouver’s city council is seeking By-law amendments to punish “leafleting” and non-celebratory signs with $10,000 per day fines over a 40 block area of the city; and VANOC is urging cities along the torch run to ban signs and handouts provided by anyone except Olympic sponsors.

The BCCLA doesn’t want Vancouver’s Olympics to be an Olympics where the homeless are displaced, free speech interfered with, and citizen rights trampled with the mistaken purpose of attempting to impress international tourists and media. We believe what will impress tourists and international media the most is demonstrating our tolerant, diverse and unique democratic society and the values that guide us, protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The BCCLA has trained many citizens as Legal Observers, volunteers who represent the watching eyes of the BCCLA during the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. They will be focused on police, military and private security conduct to ensure accountability. More concretely, they will be observing major protests and other potential hot spots like Olympic venues and the Downtown Eastside. Legal observers will report observations back to BCCLA’s team of volunteer lawyers who are prepared to go to court to protect people’s rights where complaints cannot be resolved informally.

David Eby, BCCLA Executive Director, recently stated that the Vancouver Police Department has been cooperative and helpful in establish protocols for observers. He could not say the same thing for the RCMP Integrated Security Unit.

Categories: BCCLA, Olympics, RCMP, Vancouver PD

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