Surveillance At City Hall?

surveillance-cameras-400Three Vancouver citizens were approached recently by plainclothes officers in charge of Olympic security. Their offense? Addressing city council at an open forum about the Olympics, according to an article in today’s Georgia Straight by Carlito Pablo.

“We understand that the individuals who spoke against Olympic interests – Chris ShawGarth Mullins, and Andrea Westergard-Thorpe – were approached by members of the ISU following the meeting for ‘consultation’,” said BCCLA president Rob Holmes.

While it shouldn’t be necessary to state the obvious, there is no place for government monitoring of constitutionally guaranteed participation in our democracy. Especially in light of Mayor Robinson’s City Charter revisions that weaken civil and property rights, this interference with our most basic democratic institutions is chilling.

Personally, I fully support the Olympics. I have an Olympic license plate and believe that the contribution to the city’s economy and the showcase for our magnificent metropolis are well worth some inconvenience. But I won’t stand by and see this council run roughshod over civil liberties and the proper rule of law in the process. Whether I agree with the opinion of those speaking out or not.

My letter to Mayor Robertson and his Council:

Dear Mr. Mayor and Members of Vancouver City Council:

I write with respect for your public service.

However, Carlito Pablo’s Georgia Straight account of plainclothes security offiicials monitoring public comment in council chamber itself – the heart of this city’s democracy – is highly disturbing. That petitioners are not just monitored but confronted by security forces merely compounds the error.

If details of the article are true, this is an inexcusable breach of the public trust, and reeks of the kind of clumsy political oppression seen in third-world countries.

These actions undermine faith in our democracy, which is based squarely on the ability to speak to government without fear of political reprisal. By injecting government monitoring into public discourse while its occurring, you risk undermining the rule of law itself, let alone respect for it.

I would appreciate a response outlining procedures taken to prevent any occurrence of this breach of the public faith.

Sean Bickerton