Big Brother 'temporarily' coming to Vancouver streets

Post by Daniel Fontaine in ,


security cameras
A City of Vancouver report repeatedly emphasizes the cameras are only 'temporary'

A report coming to Vancouver City Council for debate next week is seeking approval to request $435,161.81 from the Province of BC to install closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in Vancouver during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The report will certainly generate a lot of controversy with those folks opposed to big brother watching over their shoulder.

It is worth noting that the word "temporary" appears no fewer than 11 times on the first two pages of this report. That's likely because the issue of implementing CCTV is bound to set off fireworks with all the community activists in the downtown eastside as well as civil libertarians. They'll naturally be worried that this experiment will be so successful the police will want to implement it as a "permanent" feature after the Games are long over. I would say they have good reason to worry on that front.

It will be interesting to see if Mayor Robertson (Chair of the Police Board) and his Vision colleagues fall on the side of safety, or bend to community concerns on this one. The CCTV cameras are being recommended by the new City Manager Penny Ballem. They will first be tested at the Celebration of Light fireworks display later this year. The following is an excerpt from the City report:

"Notwithstanding the temporary and restricted nature of this CCTV deployment, it is
recognized that there is a level of public concern that accompanies the proposed deployment of any CCTV system. It is therefore considered important to clearly communicate the aims and objectives of this deployment.

In line with this, a public engagement process will be established which will seek to clearly outline the rationale for this initiative and provide a forum for dialog. Amongst stakeholders who will be invited to participate will be the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association(BCCLA), which has expressed ongoing concerns over the deployment of CCTV, and the Vancouver Public Space Network.

Although the Vancouver Police Department will not be managing the deployment or
monitoring of CCTV for the 2010 Games, it is considered important to involve them in this engagement process, and senior representatives from the VPD have agreed to join in discussions."

By way of background on the financing of the CCTV scheme, the report states:

In October 2008 the Province of British Columbia announced the provision of a total of $1 million in funding to the municipalities of Vancouver, Surrey and Kelowna to support the implementation of CCTV-related initiatives.

In response to this request, the City’s Office of Emergency Management submitted a proposal for funds to establish a mobile CCTV system focused on public safety and event management. This system will be capable of providing rapidly deployable temporary monitoring capabilities at large public events or in response to hazards, emergencies and other unforeseen eventualities. An integral component of this bid is the provision of a Control Room located at Vancouver’s Emergency Operations Centre, a seismically- resilient building. This is also important in helping the City in the long term address its disaster recovery and business resumption needs.

The Control Room will also provide the City with the infrastructure needed for the temporary monitoring of CCTV cameras during the Games period in 2010. The total request for funds from the Province is for $435,161.81. This represents the full cost of the project – including project management and contingency allocations.

As far as overall costs go, the report outlines the following information relating to the project:

The Vancouver Integrated Security Unit has allocated funds for the deployment of temporary CCTV cameras in the Urban Domain during the 2010 Games period. V2010-ISU has identified the entertainment district and the Cruise Ship Terminal as key areas in need of temporary CCTV provision. In addition, the City has identified the City-run ‘Live Sites’ as requiring the temporary deployment of CCTV during the Games.

The V2010-ISU funds allocated for this purpose total $2,160,229.00. This sum provides for the procurement and installation of cameras and for the monitoring of those cameras during the Games period.

To read a copy of the report, click here.


Would all the same nay-sayers be against the cameras if they "caught or prevented" a perpetrator or major crime? of course then they would like this sort of thing....if the cams saved their hood from some horrendous act or the cams are ok right....I have 4 cctv in high def on my house too as a deterrent and after some punks came by...totally support it...and a recent example is the terror attacks in Britain..the only way they caught those guys was with the cameras....(and they are here already to some degree - private business and skytrain stations, governement buildings, and housings sro and many other yes bring on the electronic protection....its just another tool


There is no evidence that CCTVs prevent crime. Extensive studies have been done and do not make this finding.

Catching people is another matter and we have seen that some alleged criminals have been caught using CCTVs.

Installing them around your house (four?! Do you live in a bunker?) is your own choice, but Daniel is right to raise the alarm when it comes to public spaces - civil liberties should always be protected. And policies need to be based on sound evidence.

Please read this CityCaucus entry for more:

So its a violation of civil liberties to have a camera "filming" an area? I would argue that there is huge proactive step in having a camera - (lets make an example).. in the downtown recently when a couple of males attacked some residents in what ended up being an attack on a gay male. lets presume there was a camera there and the crime was "not done" due to the thugs seeing the cameras ;;or lets say that the crime that occured was totally filmed and lead to the immediate arrest and capture (and prevention of additional crimes) by the individuals....I simply see it as being quite simple argument - and the naysayers have nothing to worry about unless they are "hiding" something...lets alter the topic to instead of cameras on every corner - it was a police officer...same sort of argument about prevention and or witnessin the crime ....would this too be a violation of civil liberties...where do you draw the line... with the city hosting this huge event (olympics) it will draw lots of attention and some may be from groups that are not here to support the games - what about the aspect of "terror groups" using this stage next year for their own gain....then do the naysayers like the idea of cameras if it prevented / or lead to the capture....and to answer your question I dont live in a bunker but after 2 break ins in 7 days (in a nice family subdivision) I spent the $ on cams to "prevent" hopefully it happening advised by the police and security folks .."make your house less inviting than the others" and hopefully the crime wont occur at all or will occur somewhere else...


I can see what you're saying, but yes, there can be a violation of civil liberties if filming is used for the wrong purposes. Who watches the watchers? Saying you have nothing to worry about unless you are hiding something is the kind of talk that prompted Orwell to write "1984".

As for prevention, again I encourage you to read the link in the above post. You can't make a bunch of normative statements or offer anecdotes. Evidence matters and the UK study offers evidence on the value of CCTVs (you'll find some evidence in that paper that does support some of your contentions - i.e. identifying those who commit a crime. Of course, that's after the crime has occurred)


I forgot to say that I'd like to apologise for the bunker remark. It was sarcastic and did nothing to add to the conversation.

I am sorry to hear that your privacy was invaded twice in a week. Having been robbed a few times myself, it's a horrible feeling and I understand why you set up cameras. Hopefully this will keep the thieves away and you and your family safe.

Have a look at the Terry Gilliam movie called Brazil for an idea of what we can expect with constant surveillance on the citizenry for "security" purposes. Yes, the movie is tongue-in-cheek, however, it's shocking how much of what they portrayed in that movie has already come true.

You can be assured about this: once those cameras are in place, it's going to require moving mountains to get them removed.

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