Mayor Robertson had no clue city by-laws applied to Art Gallery encampment

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


tentcity2.JPG paid a visit to the illegal encampment a few days ago

Only a few weeks ago pundits were writing about how the upcoming civic election in Vancouver was a snoozer. There were no real issues that would galvanize voters to come out and vote on Nov. 19. All that changed when about 150 people decided they wanted to permanently camp out for free on the front lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Known as Occupy Vancouver, the encampment has already cost taxpayers well over half a million dollars. With news that Mayor Gregor Robertson is providing squatters with free electricity and 24/7 security, the bill continues to mount.

The encampment quickly turned into a political nightmare and is now even threatening Robertson’s tight grip on power. That’s because His Worship’s position regarding the squatters has been, shall we say, a tad unfocused.24hours.jpg

Initially, he said the campers could stay “indefinitely” as long as they were peaceful. But then Robertson did a colossal flip-flop after his political opponent Suzanne Anton said she would give the squatters no more than seven days to pack up their tents if she were elected mayor.

Suddenly, Robertson then wanted the tents down, but he refused to provide us with a firm date as to when that would happen. He merely hinted the squat should be over prior to Grey Cup festivities, which commence in late November.

Clearly in damage control, Robertson even went so far as to claim the city doesn’t have legal jurisdiction over the land the art gallery sits upon. That’s because it is technically owned by the province, but is leased to the city as part of a 99-year agreement.

In an interview with CBC Radio’s Stephen Quinn, Robertson was asked to provide clarification regarding this bizarre interpretation of who has legal jurisdiction over the art gallery.

Quinn asks “Sorry I’m unclear here then. This is provincial property; therefore, the city by-laws don’t apply. Is that what you’re telling me?”

“That’s right,” responded Robertson.

Well actually, that’s wrong. Within 24 hours of that interview, city officials were forced to clarify that the city does in fact have legal jurisdiction over the encampment.

Quinn then grilled the mayor regarding whether he thought the squatters were actually breaking any laws. Robertson responded,“In terms of how we interpret the bylaws, they are not right now.”

The mayor must either have blinders on, or is willfully ignoring what is going on at Occupy Vancouver. During my visit there earlier this week, it took me less than five minutes to photograph three separate by-law infractions.

Something tells me that the mayor, after initially welcoming the protesters to camp indefinitely, is beginning to regret that decision right about now.

- Post by Daniel. You can follow us on on Twitter @CityCaucus or you can "like" us on Facebook at This column first appeared in 24 Hours Vancouver on Thursday, October 27, 2011.


Hopefully violence won't break out like it has at the Occupy sites in the US.
Apparently in the last week there has been numerous rapes with the Occupy people in Baltimore suggesting the incidents not be reported to police as they would get counseling for the perpetrator. Insane!!

BREAKING NEWS: Gregor Robertson is clueless.

Okay, maybe not such breaking news. This guy is an embarrassment to the city and the CBC interview proves it. I'm voting him out. I hope many more people join me.

I propose that on November 11, 2011, the citizens of Vancouver who believe in peaceful and lawful protest and who believe the lands outside VAG are for the peaceful and lawful enjoyment of all citizens gather as a counter protest in the Occupy Take Back Our City protest.

Let's all have a sit in at the Hornby, Dunsmuir and Burrard bike lanes. Now that will get the mayor's attention. And it will probably get us all arrested!

I like it "Let's take back our city"!

In fact, this is similar to the sentiment expressed by a lady I met last Friday night at a downtown dinner. She put it this way:

"We want our city back"

I suspect there is an increasingly large group of people, many over 55, who are beginning to think this way. The challenge for the NPA is to figure out how to connect with them, and get them out to vote on November 19. After all, I think it's fair to say Vision is doing a very good job connecting with the younger voters.

On the matter of who owns the VAG, as a former trustee I know that the property, including the front 'lawn' belongs to the city. The city acquired the lands in 1974 on a 99 year lease, as part of a land exchange with the province.

To those of you who aren't sure whether owning a lease is the same as owning freehold, just go and speak to condo owners at UBC and SFU who have paid a lot of money to purchase their homes on 99 year leases.

They own them!

There's lots more than we're hearing on the MSM:

Under the Canadian Charter or Rights and Freedoms sec. 2 (b) and (c) everyone has the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.
Please provide justification to disperse a peaceful protest. This statement "...the encampment has already cost taxpayers well over half a million dollars" doesn't hold.

All the posters quoting the Charter's right to freedom of expression seem to omit the guiding principle from Section 1 of the Charter - rights and freedoms are not absolute.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

It was ruled that the dismantling of a Peace Camp erected on Parliament Hill to protest cruise missile testing in Canada did not infringe the appellant's freedom of expression under paragraph 2(b) of the Charter.
Weisfeld v. Canada, [1995] 1 CF 68

Per the headnote in that case:
The action of the Government agents, whether pursuant to the Regulations or to a common law right to abate trespass and nuisance, was a limit on the appellant's freedom of expression which was "prescribed by law." To meet the reasonable limit test in the section 1 analysis, it must be established first that the objective which the limitation is designed to promote is pressing and substantial in a free and democratic society. The second requirement involves a proportionality test. The respondent's purpose in exercising her common law rights and in amending the Regulations was to remedy the negative, physical consequences of the appellant's conduct. The presence of the shelter on Parliament Hill constituted potential fire and health hazards. The Government was also concerned with preserving the aesthetic beauty of Parliament Hill. A final government objective was to prevent the damage that the permanent presence of the Peace Camp could have on the symbolic importance of Parliament Hill. These objectives were pressing and substantial. The proportionality test has three components. The first component is the rational connection: the measure limiting the Charter freedom must be rationally connected to the intended objectives. The Government's exercise of its common law right to remove the appellant's Peace Camp shelter from Parliament Hill and to prevent him from re-erecting it was rationally connected to the objectives of maintaining Parliament Hill in a clean, safe and aesthetically pleasing condition. Similarly, subsection 6(2) of the Public Works Nuisances Regulations is designed to achieve those same objectives and it is neither arbitrary, unfair nor based on irrational considerations. The second component is the minimal impairment test which was also met. In merely denying the appellant the right to erect and to occupy a permanent shelter, but leaving unimpaired his other means of communicating his message, the Government infringed the appellant's freedom of expression as little as was reasonably possible in the circumstances. With respect to the third component of the proportionality test, the Government's exercise of its common law rights against trespass and public nuisance with respect to the shelter had a minimal effect on the appellant's ability to exercise his freedom of expression, which effect was proportional to the objectives of the Government action. As for subsection 6(2) of the Regulations operating as a justification for appellant's removal of table from the Hill, the words do not support such a meaning: a table, simply resting on the ground, is not a "structure." The respondent gave that provision an unreasonable interpretation when she sought to apply it so as to prohibit the appellant from bringing a table onto the Hill and using it to hold literature. It did not and could not justify her conduct, but neither was it unconstitutional.

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