Sensible B.C. files complaint with Elections B.C. claiming continued TransLink interference
Sensible B.C. director Dana Larsen has lodged a formal complaint with Elections B.C. claiming that TransLink and Transit Police officers continue to interfere with lawful canvassing.
In an email to the Straight, Larsen details an incident that allegedly occurred yesterday (September 29) at Surrey Central Station. Bruce Myers and a second Sensible B.C. canvasser say they were collecting petition signatures when TransLink staff had RCMP officers remove them from the premises.
“This is completely inappropriate, and illegal behaviour by TransLink and the RCMP, says Larsen, quoted in that email. “Today I lodged a formal complaint with Elections B.C. against TransLink and the RCMP. Their officers need to be made aware of the law, and instructed to leave our canvassers alone.”
The complaint was filed just three days after Kirk Tousaw, legal counsel to Sensible B.C., sent a letter to TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis requesting that all TransLink and Transit Police employees be instructed not to interfere with Sensible B.C. campaign activities.
Tousaw’s action was in response to three altercations on September 25 that occurred between Transit Police officers and Sensible B.C. campaigners at SkyTrain stations in Surrey, Richmond, and Burnaby.
“TransLink is bound by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Tousaw told the Straight. “That means that they’ve got to allow political speech, both around their property and on their property.”
Several court decisions have made clear TransLink properties are public spaces where political activities can be conducted without interference.
In 2001, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that TransLink had infringed on the rights of Ron Churchill when two transit constables stopped him from distributing political pamphlets at a SkyTrain station. More recently, in 2009, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that TransLink and B.C. Transit had to allow political ads of the Canadian Federation of Students and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.
In response to the Straight’s questions about the September 25 incidents, spokespeople for both TransLink and Transit Police stated that going forward, staff would be instructed not to impede the activities of Sensible B.C. volunteers.
“Our position is that we won’t block the Sensible B.C. people in any way from petitioning or obtaining signatures,” said Transit Police spokesperson Anne Drennan.
Responding to news that a complaint had been filed with Elections B.C., TransLink spokesperson Derek Zabel said told the Straight he was still looking into the specific issue that led to that action.
Zabel however noted that he had knowledge of more-recent incidents that occurred today. He explained that in those instances, Sensible B.C. volunteers were found campaigning inside fare-paid zones, which contravenes TransLink rule 9 (a).
“They are allowed to be on the property as long as they are not in faire-paid zones and as long as they are not blocking access to ticket machines and station entrances,” Zabel said.
On September 9, Sensible B.C. began a 90-day drive to collect the signatures of 10 percent of registered voters in each of the province’s 85 constituencies. If it does that, a bill amending the police act to provide for the decriminalization of marijuana could go to an initiative vote.