City admits to secret meetings with Chinese officials regarding bylaw

Post by Mike Klassen in

36 comments

protest fee.JPG
Ka-ching! Protestors could become a new revenue source for Vancouver

Just hours after Mayor Gregor stopped sending tweets out from the Vancouver 125th birthday bash concert on Wednesday night, controversy began brewing over a couple of his latest initiatives.

Vision wants to seriously ramp up security at City Hall during public hearings, while another report is proposing what some media refer to as a new $1,200 "protest tax." It struck many as an authoritarian double-whammy, not unlike Vision's previous "Olympic gag law" put in place to prevent non-sanctioned activity near Olympic venues.

At Thursday afternoon's Planning and Environment meeting of Vancouver city council, City Manager Penny Ballem told council that she consulted with just three parties to formulate the "Protest Tax" bylaw designed to hinder Falun Gong protests on Granville Street. Those three parties were the BC Civil Liberties Association, representatives of the Falun Gong, and representatives of the China consulate. Each party was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement to keep the discussions secret.

The trouble it seems is the most important stakeholder of all – the citizens of Vancouver – were left out of the discussion until the 11th hour.

Staff explained that this bylaw must pass before April 19th or face a penalty from the court. Eighteen speakers quickly lined up to speak to the new "Protest Tax" bylaw, with many more speakers expected to sign up when the discussion continues at city council on the 19th.

The "Protest Tax" bylaw was quietly slipped into the council package less than forty-eight hours before council would discuss it.

While it might seem astonishing that a bylaw which could fundamentally change the way people can "express" themselves publicly (read: protest or celebrate) in Vancouver was snuck in at the last minute, it's par for the course for Canada's most secretive municipal government. Vancouver's governing Vision party rarely shows that they're truly interested in public input.

The innocuous sounding report – titled "Structure for Public Expression on City Streets" – includes a number of provisions which will force protestors and community groups to pay a new $1,000 deposit and $200 tax. If you want to set up a table on Commercial Drive and protest the lack of progress on homelessness, get ready to fork over some serious cash.

Even folks from the Pivot Legal Society and other left-leaning advocacy groups are crying foul. In this morning's Vancouver Sun a rep from the BC Civil Liberties Association told reporter Jeff Lee:

Not many people have $1,200 to throw at such a thing. It's like a Monty Python sketch; 'Please provide your $1,000 security deposit for your homelessness protest'

It was a bit painful to watch Gregor Robertson pitch two softball questions to staff – ones most likely written for him by staff – suggesting that the new bylaw would be good for us. It was too much for the lawyer representing the Falun Gong Clive Ansley, who openly criticized the "puffball" line of questioning by Mayor Gregor.

If the protest fee wasn't bad enough, the Georgia Straight broke a story earlier this week that the Mayor is also planning to ramp up security provisions for future public hearings held at City Hall. It would appear the Mayor is trying discourage all of those f***ing NPA hacks from coming to council and speaking their peace.

In a memo obtained by The Georgia Straight, a city staffer advises council they better get used to seeing a lot more security guards, crowd control barriers and a new sign in kiosk at 12th and Cambie. Want to speak to council? Better get ready to show some ID and sign in on the main floor prior to being escorted up to the 3rd floor!

Perhaps airport-like full body scans are in the cards? Take your shoes off?

So while the Mayor has been busy with numerous cake cutting and street hockey photo ops, a couple of controversies are clearly bubbling up for him at 12th & Cambie.

The following is an excerpt from Jeff Lee's Sun article where he provides more details regarding the proposed public expression by-law:

Jerry Dobrovolny, the city's assistant city engineer and director of transportation, said the new bylaw is a compromise that will allow temporary protest structures in certain locations without them being "turned into an encampment." But the bylaw comes with heavy restrictions. It doesn't apply to any residential zones, such as the Shaughnessy district where the Chinese consulate is located. Applicants also:

- Can apply only once every other month, for a maximum duration of 30 days.

- Must remove the structures daily between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

- Must be at the location at all times when the structure is present.

- Must pay $200 for each permit, and a refundable $1,000 damage deposit.

- Can't attach anything to sidewalks or walls.

- Are restricted to structures two metres wide by one metre deep by 2.1 metres high.

- Must submit drawings and plans to the city for approval.

- Can't use any electric lights, heat or gas cylinders.

As for the heightened security measures for future public hearings, here is what the Straight is reporting:

New security measures include:

- Fire officials will review occupancy loads in the upper and lower areas of the council chamber. These will be posted, and corporate security staff will enforce them.

- Overflow crowds will be directed to wait in the ground-floor media centre.

- Crowd-control barriers will be erected in the third-floor lobby area outside the council chamber to maintain clear access.

- The lower area of the chamber will be reserved for registered speakers and staff.

- Speakers will be required to sign in at the ground-floor information kiosk. They will receive a numbered label. Only the first 40 speakers will be permitted into the lower level of the council chamber.

- After speaking, they will be "encouraged to move out of this space to make way for those waiting to speak".

- Additional security will be deployed to prevent people other than council members and staff from moving beyond the speaker's podium.

- City clerk's staff will be able to press a "duress button" when necessary.

"While it is a public building, access to City Hall after regular business hours is controlled by Corporate Security," Bradshaw wrote.

In the final paragraph of his memo, Bradshaw stated: "These changes are being put in place to ensure the safety of the public, staff and Council members and that public meetings can proceed in an orderly manner."

The comments from our readers are not only coming in fast and furious, they're incredibly insightful, such as the remarks below by Tired and Cranky. Great work, folks! Keep 'em coming.

+++

NPA councillor Suzanne Anton has been on a tear this week, and Vision Vancouver seem to be providing her with no shortage of issues to challenge them on. Anton introduced a motion regarding the date of the Pandora Street coroner's inquest, and the Mayor backed down on a previous request to postpone the Pandora Street inquest until after the November civic election. Council agreed that was a mistake and has asked the B.C. Coroner if they can move up the date.

Then on Wednesday night Anton fired off another news release in which she demanded Mayor Gregor hold off on pushing through his protest tax until the public have had a chance to weigh in and provide their feedback:

An extremely controversial report is being slipped in at the last minute without allowing for any meaningful public discussion. This has become a regular pattern with the Mayor and his caucus colleagues. Freedom of expression is fundamental to democracy. Any possible restriction on that freedom must be well-understood and properly debated. Two days notice is not enough.

Not surprisingly, Roberton and Vision turned down Anton's suggestion.

It appears that the clock ran out on preparing this bylaw, which was triggered by a court decision favouring the Falun Gong protesters last October. As we noted earlier, the City must respond to this by April 19th. If too many speakers line up to have their say on this "Protest Tax" bylaw, it's possible that the City's deadline for the courts will be passed.

- Post by Mike. Follow @MikeKlassen & @CityCaucus on Twitter.

36 Comments

Who is going to check if people have paid their fees for a protest, and how does the city intend to collect?

I get what they are trying to do. I suspect they want this on the books so they can selectively enforce it with the help of the police.

One can't help think that Robertson's comments/thoughts on 'democracy' stop at climate change.

****

"...you can be critical of a lot of regimes around the world, and you can question how worthwhile democracy is in a lot of countries right now which are, frankly, ignoring the biggest crisis in the history of our species which is climate change. That's where you see the Chinese government taking radical dramatic action in investing in turning the ship around. And you do not see that in Western governments right now, democratically elected, and that's because they're afraid. And that's not serving the greater interests of society."

@Julia:

Are you suggesting they might be profiling groups/people?

'City staff say they had to slip in a last minute public expression by-law in order to meet an April 19th court imposed deadline'..as tweeted

*********

Wow.

They drag their heels on the Pandora house stating that they couldn't do anything legally until January, however, they can get this 'stifle law' laid out and on the books within a 2 week deadline?

What gives with that? How long has this 'bylaw' been in the works???

Are you suggesting you didn't know they have been?

;-)

Witness the work of former blogger / mayor's office insider:

Vested interests with west end activist

This is aimed solely at the Falun Gong protest structures. It won't impact critical mass of course... No permit needed to block traffic, but if you want to meditate in silence next to a table you'd better bring your wallet.

Is Gregor acting on behalf of the Chinese government?

The Falun Gong protest falls under the freedom of religion.

What next, the right to freedom of assembly is gone?

People standing outside smoking are told to 'move along'?

Yes precisely. No doubt for the neighbourhood residents who live there they have grown tired of the display and likely see it as an eyesore.

But it is worded broadly enough that if a group gets uppity in the wrong way, the city can move in and shut it down for no reason other than political expediency.

oh yeah, and uh... the Chinese government... whom apparently the city negotiated with confidentially?????

f____________ck that.

We could have never saved the Bloedel Conservatory with laws like this.Friends of the Bloedel started with a table and a petition in front of Bloedel Conservatory then filled the gallery at City Hall and Park Board.... what is happening.The right to protest is fundamental in a Democracy.I predict a whole lot more NPA Hacks will be voting for a change soon.The public needs to speak up this is getting crazy....Vancouverites I hope are mad as hell about this and will not allow this to happen

And the greater interests of society is to buy TONS of useless stuff manufactured in every country of the world.

Climate change?

Too many people, buying too much junk.

Profiling? I would not go that far. I highly doubt that the city has the time or resources to chase every table set up to collect signatures for a petition. Just like the city does not have the time or resources to ensure everyone has cleared the snow off their sidewalks by 10am. but the law is on the books regardless. Why? Because without it the city has absolutely nothing in its arsenal of bylaws to address a serious problem.

The structure at the Chinese consulate is long gone. Wonder if they are more concerned about red tents.

Gregor goes to China. He likes China. You don't have to ask for permission from the masses in China. Communists give Gregor ideas. Solomon as the Vision godfather thinks gag orders, protest taxes, and media hit list should be implemented city wide, that's by Ballem's hand. Part of his 500 years idiotic plan. Gregor needs to go. Ballem needs to get nicked, same as Johnston, McClelan, Toderian etc. Vision needs to go,for good. F@#$k them!!!!!

I can't believe Raymond Louie can equate this fee to a deposit in renting an apartment... oh brother, grasping at deflection..

Some interesting items to ponder.

Gregor plans trip to China. Asks his staff to arrange a few months of taxpayer funded chinese language lessons. They go well.

Gregor goes to China on taxpayer dime. Total cost about $120,000. His tutoring pays off as he meets local officials and says with an accent only Frances Bula could love "aren't the falun dafa bad? Bad, falun dafa".

Meanwhile, as his Warship is wining and dining Chinese officials, he mutters to the media that democracy is a tad overrated. He and his chief of gaffe look at each other...pause... then have a belly laugh over that one.

Back home, the City Manager is secretly discussing the development of a new falun gong by-law which will limit public expression in Vancouver.

Chinese officials mildly complain that the confidentiality agreement proposed by the city is an affront to democracy. Kind of ironic eh? "Do you really allow this kind of stuff in Canada? Thought you guys were all about openness and transparency? Even our most senior officials would blush with this kind of stuff back in Beijing. The President says to limit confidentiality clauses to a minimum in order to not piss off the west."

Another Chinese official says to City Manager "How come the name Ark Tsisserev is crossed out throughout this whole document?"

To which the City Manager replies "as a cost cutting measure, we're re-using previous confidentiality agreements. Just sign the damn thing won't you."

Moments later, Chinese officials sign the agreement and pledge to help city officials design their new public demonstration by-law. Everyone raises a glass of wine as a senior official shouts out "long live democracy!"

Months later, City Manager decides that with only a few weeks to go before a court imposed April 19th deadline, the public expressions report will be released to the media. But not until the VERY last minute so nobody gets wind of what's going on.

As the debate begins, the COPE party politicians start beating their chests and say "This legislation is awful. It needs to be repealed immediately. It's an affront to democracy and freedoms. Who on earth helped elect Vision to government anyway"? At which point one of their supporters shouts out from the gallery "we did! long live the coalition. solidarity forever!!!"

NPA's Anton then pleads with council to send the by-law packing and undertake more consultation.

To which Mayor Moonbeam responds "we don't need any more consultation. We've spoken to three stakeholders and that's enough. Furthermore, we're going to hear from 18 speakers today, what more do you want!"

Confidentiality agreements. Backroom discussions with representatives from a communist regime. $1000 deposits to set up a protest booth. $200 processing fees.

This is ALL too much. November civic election can't come soon enough.

There will be a certain percentage of persons of Chinese descent, living in Vancouver, that left mainland China for democratic reasons. They moved here to have a better, freer life for themselves and their children. Alife of free choice and the ability to speak without punishment.

I wonder how the news that our local government, that the Mayor and City Manager, have had secret meetings with the Chinese Government, in order to inact laws that help in the continued pursecution of a religious order that the Chinese Government disagrees with.

The Fulong Gong have long been a sore in the side of the Chinese Government. Our Federal Government would not sway to the Chinese on this matter, yet the Chinese Government has found an ally with Robertson, Ballem and VV.

It is absoulutely disgusting and shameful.

All bow to Chairman Robertson.

Okay, so I am answering one of my own questions as to how long this has been in the works - 6 months, and they are trying to sneak this by.
From the Globe & Mail:

'....The change is the direct result of a B.C. Court of Appeal ruling last October in which Madam Justice Carol Huddart struck down part of the city’s existing bylaw. She said the injunction the city acted on in 2009 to remove the Falun Gong hut in front of the consulate was unconstitutional because other kinds of structures were allowed elsewhere and there were no clear rules.

The judge gave the city six months to improve the bylaw. The new proposal, part of a report titled “Structures for Public Expression,” was posted on the city website on Wednesday, a day before the meeting at which it is to be voted on. That is generating additional complaints, since it gives groups little more than 24 hours to prepare to speak in opposition.'

Waht??

'Mr. Dobrovolny said the city met with representatives from B.C. Civil Liberties, Falun Gong and the Chinese consulate as it prepared the bylaw, and tried to take their concerns into account. He acknowledged, however, the city couldn’t satisfy all of their requests for changes.'

ahh yes Max, but what did we expect...

Democracy cubed...

This email was sent out last night.

Notice the statement about the request to City before the Olympics..as well the by-law states that this includes the boulevards.

Does this mean that every citizen that has planted a garden with planters and pots, on City land in front of their homes must remove it...during council today a pile of manure was discussed as being a structure....

***Tomorrow afternoon City Council is voting on a by-law change that would prevent homeless people from sleeping in tents on sidewalks. The proposed amendments to the Street and Traffic By-law would put in place a prohibition to constructing and occupying any “structure, object, substance, or thing” which would encroach upon a City street.

In this By-law, “street” is defined to be the entirety of City property from property line to property line, including not only the paved part where traffic is allowed, but also the sidewalks and grassy boulevards that border the pavement.

In the wake of a housing protest in a park in Victoria, the BC Court of Appeal and the BC Supreme Court found that it is unconstitutional to deprive homeless people of shelter when they have nowhere else to go. Upon legal analysis, we believe that the decision in the Victoria (City) v. Adams case applies to sidewalks and boulevards. Vancouver City by-laws need to reflect the Adams decision and accommodate the right of homeless people to temporary shelter.

In the lead up to the 2010 Winter Olympics, we asked City Council to draft temporary guidelines for dealing with shelters, including tents, for homeless people on City property until by-laws could be amended to reflect the Adams decision. We have never seen an interim policy from the City, and now Council is considering an amendment to the by-law that would once again deny homeless people their Charter right to overnight shelter on streets, and ban anyone from setting up tents on sidewalks without a costly permit.

There has not been any public consultation on these new amendments, in fact, the City just released the proposed changes yesterday! Show your support - click here to send a quick email to Mayor and Council and let them know that City by-laws must respect the constitutional right of homeless people to set up temporary overnight shelters.

Pivot lawyer Scott Bernstein will be speaking to council about our concerns with the amendments to the by-law before the vote tomorrow afternoon.

Sincerely,

Darcie Bennett
Campaigns Director

The Thought of The Day

“In Today’s 24 Hours Vancouver... 'Woman wearing an ‘Flock Yoga’ button, and caught without ticket, was kicked off the train.' Her explanation ‘I wanted to be like Gregor!’”

Aaah, Vancouver, the City of Opportunists.
The city where dreams come true!
A city where anyone who gets caught without paid fare on the Skytrain, and who freely uses the word ‘Flock’ in the context of its citizens, may one day become...the Mayor of Vancouver.
Just ask Gregor Robertson...

And in other news, to add insult to injury, today, the profoundly wicked City Council following the advice from its top Commissar Ballem, proposed a new draconian by-law in consultation with a number of ‘foreign entities’ and contrary to everything Canadian Democracy stands for.

Welcome to the Vancouver’s Red Plague a.k.a. Vancouver VISION. Their spokesperson, Dr. Billy Rubin said in a short statement 'If you got to go, you got to go, when you got to go, you go,so they went.'

I am a feelin’ for some fittin' Blues momma, how’bout ya?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyZ128zVEr4

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Why didn't the Mayor politely tell the Communist "hacks" to eff off?

Do you think, given a change in venue, that the Chinese would entertain such requests, were the shoe on the other foot?

What a weak, pathetic excuse for politicians we have in this city.

Birdy,

you bring up an interesting point about Critical Mass..would this be considered illegal?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAY_UeZBwyo

I'm surprised Mr (want to be Mayor at that time) is wearing his helmet.

One of the times he participated in the Critical Mess (oops,Mass)he didn't have it on.

I guess the laws can be broken when you're entitled cyclists.

Of course Critical Mass will not have to get a permit. Nobody knows who the real organizers of this farce are.

And they are organized!

chris(one of many)

Like this....

http://www.straight.com/article-245085/critical-mass-hysteria

do as I say, not as I do..= Vision Vancouver democracy...

SAY NO MORE. Pun intended.

Bill McCreery,

I don't know if you have been able to get any more clarity on this subject.

Listening to Council yesterday, Dr. Ballen stated such things as the HST tables etc would be considered illegal. CKNW TODAY offered a different spin. Need clarity..!! David Cadman states it wasn't Gregors fault but city staff, but Vision claimed it was City Staff that was responsible for Pandora St. failure as well...
Really don't know what to think here.

A homeless man leaving his cart unattended while going indoors to the washroom is considered an illegal structure.As stated yesterday at Council. A sign handle like what was recently used on the City Hall lawn to hold a banner stating no to the Casino expansion would be illegal.

I notice in the past 24 hours the messaging has changed and a few moments ago Vision has sent out an email expressing that this in no way prevents our freedom to protest etc..

Since other posters have chosen you the opinion guy to go to,(pun intended ;-)) could you offer any more information that you've been able to glean?

I have been very critical of this issue and maybe I need to listen to other views.... don't think I'm wrong, just think I need other views other than Visions version...

Obviously I'm a disgruntled Vision member or I wouldn't have gotten the email....before anyone attacks..

George, I have not much more information than you do on this specific topic. I suspect the City has been pressured hard for some time by the PRC Consulate to do something.

In my view the deadline is a smoke screen. If it's a court order, then the court will have to enforce it. Someone would have to come out of the trees and do so. Who might that be? Very unsavoury.

If the City is doing its due diligence, why would a court interfere within a reasonable time frame?

Another question, however, is where has Vision been for the past 6 months on this issue? They are negligent, knowing the 6 month deadline, in not dealing with it. They have a longstanding pattern of not dealing with important matters, the OV comes to mind. The rental housing is still empty and the new sales programme seems to be stalled again.

((this latest not believable zinger out on a Friday afternoon yet again --- I understand Mr. Meggs hAs just claimed WE TAXPAYERS are only going to lose $50m on the OV. At a 30% to 50% discount such a claim is obviously not true!))

This PROPOSED bylaw looks like it has many potential flaws and the unintended consequences will be legion. Based on it, driving a tent stake into the ground is illegal and sleeping overnight in the tent is also, so your up on 2 counts and counting if you're homeless and score a tent.

Vision is yet again demonstrating their inability to manage even the simplest situations. It also has a darker side. The direction and thrust of the proposed by-law has the overall and far reaching intent of seriously inhibiting not only our personal freedoms of expression but also our movements and activities. One can't help but ask if this was another reason why CISIS raised the 'red' flag last year.

Thank you Bill,

I think we all need to realize that the next opportunity to speak is also the last day of the time prescription ordered by the court.... we all need to sign up to speak to Council and voice our feelings on this.

During Council yesterday it shocked me to hear that if a man with a shopping cart leaves his cart on the sidewalk to go into a public washroom it is an illegal structure... but to make Vision appear caring a man can sleep in a store alcove and be legal...lobbing a softball if you will...

We as a society need to respond. I mentioned this point on another site where I'm not really welcome, but it is a valid point..

The same day we tried to take the rights of the Falun Gong protesters away... our beloved Bob Dylan was self censoring himself and performing in China, the audience had 2000 seats filled by government officials watching to make sure he did not cross a line...

the irony did not escape me..in China a poet laureate is imprisoned..here we are honored to hear our poets speak..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHczVzGfyqQ

True George.
Making criminals out of ordinary law abiding citizens. Under VISION's watch!
Orwellian. The VISION Farm.
"No pig should sleep in beds...without bedsheets"

I must say I've got to see it before forming an opinion, but some sort of crowd control is necessary. Allowing registered speakers primary access to the lower gallery seems reasonable. I know as a frequent speaker, being able to see and hear the previous speakers properly helps me to fine tune my own presentation. I'm also often a non-speaker attendee, and still do covet the immediacy of being in the presence of our august elected representatives. Guess you can't gain something without losing something. I just hope the screen downstairs is large enough and the volume loud enough-the first night of the casino hearing I almost passed out for lack of oxygen in the third floor lobby.

I'm in a little bit of shock right now.. for those of you that did not listen to the Council meeting that dealt with this issue, after reading what our Mayor has tweeted tonight I strongly urge you to view it..

Gregor Robertson
Built protest structures r illegal. Court now requires city to regulate. Another mess we inherit + must fix. Carefully.
about an hour ago via Twitter

Mayor Robertson you should be very ashamed of yourself...

Didn't he read the bylaw first, before funneling staff propaganda at Thursday's meeting?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtGAvhZFHVY

Gawd, I loved the clip Gerry.

Halfway through I was about to comment of how much the meeting resembles a Ballet on the music of Ravel's Bolero, and choreographed by Ballem-chine...when those two nice and vocal ladies took over. Golden Blitz!

As for Chow's flagellating comments I think he should wipe his mouth after he shoves so much nothingness, IMHO.

Gliss, I am not worthy. Thank you! Here's a slightly tighter edit, the previous version has been removed to make way for it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCV8OYJh8Ls

I am seeing more and more of those crowd control barricade fences around street corners and parks. I always wondered what the need for crowd control was in those areas.

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