Friday, October 30, 2009

Chris Shaw sues City over civil rights

UBC professor and Olympics watchdog Chris Shaw. Photo The Blackbird.

I was planning to spend Vancouver's long Olympic Winter hiding under a rock.

Indeed, I didn't see the point of picking a fight against the mighty Olympics. How does one even start doing that? So I resigned myself. Calendar cleared, TV unplugged, mind set to zen, heavy books stockpiled: I was ready to kill some Olympic time.

My plans have been upset. The BC Government and Vancouver City Council have turned over my rock. The brats. Against my will and my better judgment, they have thrown me back into service as an anti-Olympic activist.

Here's what happened. The Campbell government is about to pass Bill 13 which will allow three cities – Vancouver, Whistler, Richmond – to enact repressive bylaws designed to quash public protest during the Olympics. Last July, Vancouver City Council preemptively voted a bylaw precisely to that effect. All they are waiting for now is the Provincial nod to bring that monster to life.

This past Friday, I sat down for lunch with someone who has actually decided to pick a fight head on with the authorities: UBC professor and Olympics watchdog Chris Shaw, who is suing the City of Vancouver with fellow activist Alissa Westergard-Thorpe over its anti-protest bylaw. I wanted him to explain what he was up to.

Shaw obliged gracefully. The Canadian Charter of Rights – particularly its section 2 – is an insufferably boring irrelevant old rag, he explained, if this bylaw ever comes to be. Among other things, the bylaw orders that, under penalty of heavy fines and prison time (yes I know: what?!), there will be:
  • no signs on a stick
  • no blocking of someone's view with that sign
  • no voice amplification device
  • no interfering with another person's enjoyment of the pro-Games celebrations (whatever that is supposed to mean)
  • no material that does not celebrate the Games
Obviously, this has ceased to be about the Olympic games. Whether you are a personal fan of the 5 rings or not, you've got to hate this bylaw. The blow that this legislation strikes to our most basic civil liberties is mind expanding.

So much for the image of Vancouver's City Council as being a progressive bunch. The cat is out of the bag. Vision Vancouver has obamized itself. It has sold out to the transnational corporate agenda and neoliberal shock doctrine, like so many other leftists before them. As I ponder the number of true progressives sitting on this Council (some of which I know personally and whose good intentions I can vouch for), I measure the massive pressure that they have been submitted to, as they approached the iron core of the corporate planet. Nobody, left or right, can resist such crushing forces.

While I am sitting across the restaurant table from Chris Shaw, I realize the relevance of his legal action and the supreme intelligence of it. If he wins, Bill 13 is killed in its tracks, the Charter of Rights is strengthened as it builds precedent against such laws in the future. If he loses, he fully exposes the crowd control agenda of the corporate-government complex, and lays the ground for a public backlash against this bill. Brilliant.

The Olympics? They are a mere distraction. They are so totally... 2010. In Shaw's analysis, the corporate elites and their political sycophants are already many years down the road actively planning their next strategic moves. A legal framework allowing swift and decisive use of force against public discontent is one of such strategic moves which deserves careful advance planning, as it may deliver a stunning checkmate against the public in the event that things went south for the elite class.

Shaw has figured it all out since day one, while the rest of us were still happily waving our Canadian flags and cheering about this “Our Time to Shine” nonsense.

What a towering figure, I thought, as Shaw was paying his bill and on his way out to his next appointment. When do I get to see that guy sitting on City Council representing my interests? Shaw for Mayor!

Another tall giant also living in our remote regions, Rafe Mair, recently paid a vibrant tribute to Chris Shaw in a Tyee editorial soberly called Chris Shaw Was Right. I'll let you read his splendid column, but here is one quote that stood out for me:

“The IOC has been given the right to decide where Canadians can exercise their rights and where they cannot – and what form their protests may take!”

No way I am going back under that rock now. Not after hearing the voices of Chris Shaw and Rafe Mair. I have already offered my services to Shaw in any capacity that he sees fit, and I encourage everyone of you to do so too (he's at I mean, hello – those are your freedoms! And if that brings the under-cover agents of the ISU breathing down my neck and checking my daily whereabouts (Shaw calls them the “Incredibly Stupid Unit”), so be it.

The supreme irony is this. Had government not drew first blood by voting this barbarian law that was supposed to deter me from taking action, I'd still be busy setting my comfy retreat under my rock.

And they would not have heard of me.



  1. Right on Ivan.

    I too am outraged. Having lived through communism, I know where all of this can lead. It starts little by little, and by the time the public realizes what is going on, you can't say anything negative about the government. As I have said before, our soldiers fought for our freedoms and rights and if we don't speak up, we are shaming their memory.

    I too don't give a shit about VPD, ISU or any other body. For thurth is on our side, we are doing nothing wrong and the Canadian charter of rights is on our side.

    Come Olympics, I too will most likely not be under the rock. Five Ring Circus Indeed.

  2. Excellent article. Nice site Ivan!

    Citizen Oliver

  3. I am angry, too. Corporations and Rich dorks have more rights than we the REAL taxpayers have. The Predator Class owns the media and their sycophantic scribes write only what the rich folks in Whistler and the Fraser Instapuke want. We have to revoke Corporate personhood and dump laws that virtually mean that you must make profits at all costs to others, the environment and the future. Eat the rich, with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.