Sunday, November 06, 2011

Yes, I agree that it is a horrible thing for a young woman to lose her life in such a way…homeless, evidentially ill, with addictions or not, she obviously had no one to take care of her and she lived in misery in an uncaring city. To be homeless is to live in miserable conditions. Given the circumstances surrounding this young women’s death, I believe that Gregor Robertson is making a big mistake in seeking an injunction to make Occupy Vancouver pack up and move out of a public space.

Because the Art Gallery is a public space, it belongs to the people of Vancouver. And as long as the people who are camping there are not posing a threat to others, then they protected under Sec. 2 of the Charter. I would like to remind the mayor that because many judges don’t think twice about giving injunctions to logging and mining companies, this situation is different. A judge might give pause before signing a court order on request from the mayor and council that compels the arrest of people who are merely exercising their constitutional right to protest.

First, Section 2b protects freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Unless the city’s lawyers can prove that the young women’s death was caused by the fact of simply being in a tent on public land there is no cause for giving an injunction. And if the young woman did come to harm by her own hand, which seems to be most likely as the police have stated foul play was not involved in her death, then Gregor may have trouble getting an injunction simply by declaring that the people camping are a danger to the public or to themselves. He has to have some proof of this, not just accusations. Are there other grounds? The tents a fire hazard?

There are buildings in Vancouver that are absolute fire traps and no arrests are made by the police. People use tarps over tents routinely everywhere. Having a tent catch fire is not like being caught in a burning building with no fire escape. This is not a good excuse for depriving people of their fundamental rights and hastening the idea that our constitutional rights are after all, what a mayor and council and a sitting judge say they are.

In my opinion, Gregor does not understand that even if he finds a judge willing to write an order there will be an enormous court challenge to this. The judges at BC Supreme Court consider corporations as persons, so when I, or any other environmental activist is arrested for blockading a logging truck it’s usually under an injunction, the claim being that one person, me, had interfered with another person’s rights (the huge, usually international corporation) to make a living. This is not the case here, Gregor. The Occupy people are simply demonstrating against injustice. They are not interfering with any other person’s livelihood. They are not a danger to others. They have a legal right to be where they are, doing what they are doing. It’s in the constitution. Unless you want long, expensive law suits to be placed once again, upon the backs of the people of Vancouver, like the Olympic Village, then don’t do it, Gregor.

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