An injuction has been issued by BC's Supreme Court requiring Falun Gong protestors to tear down the sign in front of the Chinese embassy on Granville Street. The decision by Madame Justice Stromberg-Stein has just been released.
The structure along Granville street has a long history and has been the bane of many City Councils since it was erected. The original protest vigil by the Falun Gong was conducted in August 2001, and signs and small hut became permanent fixtures in front of the embassy. Mayors Philip Owen, Larry Campbell, Sam Sullivan and now Gregor Robertson have been required to confront the question of what to do. Mayor Sullivan was the first mayor to openly suggest that the group had made their point by occupying the sidewalk on Granville Street just south of 16th Avenue for almost 5 years, and asked that it be taken down.
In November, Vancouver City Hall sent the decision to the courts. The Supreme Court decision, Vancouver (City) vs Zhang, handed down late yesterday. Madame Justice Stromberg-Stein provides some background to her 37-page decision:
"Over the years, the City attempted to reach a satisfactory solution with the respondents. Initially the respondents co-operated by reducing, and at one time removing, the structures. However, the respondents now take the position that they have a right to maintain the structures in place notwithstanding."
She effectively rules in favour of the bylaw, and the City's ability to enforce it. She looked as to whether there were any extraordinary circumstances that would require an exception and concluded there are none. She also points out that:
"This injunction order does not prohibit or limit the right of the respondents, or any other persons, to lawfully assemble on any street or any part thereof."
This was one of the most closely watched court cases for Canadian cities because it would have had huge implications for a city's ability to enforce the removal of structures on public property.
We remind our CityCaucus.com readers that the City recently passed an extraordinary sign bylaw preventing any protest signage in the presence of the 2010 Olympics. We expect that Mayor Robertson will do the right thing and be the first government in seven years to actually enforce the City's bylaw against the Falun Gong protest.