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City of Vancouver Seeks to Quintuple Fines

A Sorry "Legacy" of the 2010 Winter Olympics

by Joseph Jones

City of Vancouver Seeks to Quintuple Fines

Also posted by Joseph Jones:

 
Introduction

At a public hearing on the evening of 15 January 2013, Vancouver City Council seems destined to approve a broad regime of maximum by-law fines of $10,000. In most cases the ceiling will rise by a multiple of five — up from $2000 to $10,000. Forty-two separate by-laws would be affected.

What the Report to Council conveniently fuzzes away is the perfidious and complex history of the 2009 change to the Vancouver Charter that makes this move possible in the present.

The main purpose of this examination of the circumstances is to expose the backstory and to highlight the potential use of this fines mechanism for political repression.

The 2009 alteration to the Vancouver Charter originated as part of a substantial omnibus package designed to hand the City of Vancouver and its residents over to the dictates of the International Olympic Committee — an organization whose history displays serious and multiple links to fascism.

Three Key Dates

First —  It all started on 22 January 2009 with Council approval of a request to the province for 16 separate amendments to the Vancouver Charter through a report titled 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games: Vancouver Charter Amendment Proposals. This undertaking included:

12. Increase in maximum fine and maximum daily fine — section 333
Stipulate that the maximum fine for an offence is $10,000, and the maximum
daily fine is $10,000.

And the Report to Council said this on page 3: Any additional revenues from fines would be insignificant. The difference between $2000 and $10,000 may seem insignificant to councillors used to running multimillion dollar campaigns financed by developers, but it will not seem so to anyone who gets hit up for an extra $8000.

Second —  On 23 July 2009 Vancouver Council rammed through 2010 Winter Games By-Law regarding the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (Games) just ahead of shutting down for August vacation (a favored and standard tactic). An extensive account of this proceeding can be found in the posting Big Bylaw at Spectacle Vancouver.

Third —  On 3 December 2009 Vancouver City Council found itself repealing its July botch-job, and replacing that mess with a revised omnibus by-law for the 2010 Olympics. The remarkable report title: 2010 Winter Games By-law No. 9908 (“Existing By-law”) and proposed 2010 Winter Games By-law (“Proposed By-law”) regarding the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (“Games”). A major change was that all by-law measures were to be temporary, with the one exception of a permanent increase to a maximum fine of $10,000 under the Fire By-law. What makes this change really amusing is that it resembles a failed amendment that Ellen Woodsworth proposed back in January 2009:

THAT we direct the Province to limit this to the duration of the Olympics.

Pushback on political freedoms succeeded in upending the July 2009 first stab at an omnibus Olympic by-law. The reworking included making almost all of those $10,000 fines temporary under one single by-law. An extensive account of this proceeding can be found in the posting Bumbling Bylaw at Spectacle Vancouver.

This particular Olympic "legacy" embedded in the Vancouver Charter has bided its time for three full years and now raises its zombie head once more. These are words found on page 2 of the Dec 2009 document [emphases added]:

The Proposed By-law and by-law enforcement plan create a Games-time regulatory structure that will … protect freedom of political expression, including expression critical of the Games … through by-law provisions that … are temporary with individual provisions applicable the minimum required time …

The Province amended the Vancouver Charter to allow the city to bring maximum city by-law fines in line with other British Columbia municipalities, and in alignment with this, the maximum fines for infringement of the Proposed By-law or the Fire By-law are set at $10,000. Fines under other existing city by-laws are not affected.

Key Issue

The fines alteration to the Vancouver Charter was born of a desire to intimidate Vancouver residents and to make them behave the way that the fascism-tinged International Olympic Committee expected them to. This legacy is apparent (page 3 of Report) in the proposed new by-law on broadscale maximum fines of $10,000:

A significant fine increase will reflect the City’s position relating to by-law compliance and will send a strong message to the public regarding the seriousness of by-law offences. …

Staff recommend that the remaining forty-two by-laws referenced in Appendix A be amended so that the maximum fine amount is consistent across all by-laws. These by-laws can generally be grouped into three categories: …

2. By-laws that regulate the use of public spaces and conduct of individuals in order to provide a safe and peaceful environment for the public

Main Point

Without addition of specific language to exclude by-law "violations" that occur in a political context, and to focus by-law enforcement on the willful and flagrant actions of financial profiteers, the proposed by-law seems certain to do far more harm than good.

Postscript: The Case for Fines

The examples provided in three case studies (pages 5-6 of Report) seem innocuous. All violators are ripoff artists who jeer at the City of Vancouver, in part because the fines they may face seem paltry in comparison with the profits that they can rake in. This should not happen, and the City of Vancouver should have the ability to inflict significant financial damage on such profiteering scofflaws. The financial damage inflicted should equal calculation of the financial advantage gained from by-law contravention, but this appropriate and deserved confiscation still will not happen.

Meanwhile, the potential for exacting severe fines in a wide range of other cases will have to result in a chilling wind that constantly blows over every contentious exercise of a Canadian Charter freedom within the City of Vancouver.

Appendix: Two Specific Cases

It seems instructive to conclude with two specific examples from the proposed new maximum fines by-law, preceded by an account of concerns raised.

One —  Section 71 of the Street and Traffic By-law relates to the infamous adhockery documented in Strictures for Political Expression.

* * *

STREET AND TRAFFIC BY-LAW NO. 2849

71A and 71B = (1) Structures on Streets and (2) Structures Conveying Political Expression

103 (6) Every person who commits an offence against the provisions of sections 71A, 71B(4), 71B(5) or 71B(6) is liable to a fine of not less than $1,000.00 and not more than $5,000.00.

PROPOSED NEW MAXIMUM FINES IN CITY BY-LAWS

Appendix B - Page 10 of 14

Street and Traffic    103(6)    $5000.00    $10,000.00

* * *

 
Two —  The City Land Regulation By-Law became a particular source of anxiety for the City of Vancouver in the preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Details about the proposals for use of and restrictions on public spaces can be found in the Spectacle Vancouver postings referenced above. Also relevant in this context is the situation of the February 2011 tent city action.

* * *

CITY LAND REGULATION BY-LAW NO. 8735

Regulation of city land
3. A person must not, without the prior written consent of the manager:

(d) construct, erect, place, deposit, maintain, occupy, or cause to be constructed, erected, placed, deposited, maintained or occupied, any structure, tent, shelter, object, substance, or thing on city land;

Fines
6. A person who commits an offence against this By-law is punishable on conviction by a fine of not less than $250.00 and not more than $2,000.00 for each offence.

Fine for continuing offence
7. A person who commits an offence of a continuing nature against this By-law is liable to a fine not exceeding $50.00 for each day such offence continues.

PROPOSED NEW MAXIMUM FINES IN CITY BY-LAWS

Appendix B, Page 3 of 14

City Land Regulation    6    $2,000.00    $10,000.00
City Land Regulation    7    Repeal and substitute … not less than $250.00 and not more than $10,000.00 for each day such offence continues

* * *
 

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