Court injunction could mean jail time for Occupy Vancouver protesters


Lawyers have criticized city hall’s legal strategy in dealing with Occupy Vancouver protesters.

“It’s a completely backwards legal practice,” University of Ottawa associate law professor Amir Attaran told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

The UBC–trained Attaran was commenting on the city’s application for a court injunction to clear the grounds of the Vancouver Art Gallery, which is public land. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the right to free expression on public property.

Attaran explained that although the charter’s protection of this right isn’t absolute, the principal issue involved is the city’s attempt to evade its own responsibility for enforcing laws by running to the court.

“If there’s a crime being committed on public land, then why do you need an injunction?” Attaran said. “Wouldn’t it be easier just to enforce the law and arrest the persons for breaking the law?”

The city has named Sean O’Flynn-Magee and other respondents in its application for an injunction. It argued that the encampment by the Occupy protesters violates city bylaws.

Lawyer Doug King of the Vancouver-based Pivot Legal Society is concerned that the city chose a heavy-handed approach that leads to stiffer penalties.

King explained that the city could simply issue tickets for bylaw infractions, and that would mean fines. However, defying a court-issued injunction makes people liable for contempt of court and they can be punished with jail time.

“The whole thing is supposed to be about free speech and the last thing you want to do is come in so heavy-handed with this and really give them the legitimate argument that their rights to free speech have been violated,” King told the Straight by phone.

Civil-rights lawyer Cameron Ward noted that the recourse to court injunctions is a common practice in B.C. when an issue has political overtones.

“I’m philosophically opposed to this kind of approach where the city rushes off to court to have the court issue an order followed by some kind of directive to the police to arrest people and bring them to court if they disobeyed the order,” Ward told the Straight in a phone interview. “The city has adequate bylaws and laws, and enforcement capabilities. But because of the political sensitivity, the city government seems to want to offload the problem onto the courts.”

David Eby is the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. He noted that injunctions are “not the preferred route”.

However, Eby also said that he understands where the city is coming from. “They’re facing legal liability on the site if they can’t get things in control there,” he said. “In addition, I do think they need to make the site safe for users, not just for Occupy Vancouver. And so they do have an obligation to do that.”

Robert Diab, a member of the faculty of the Capilano University’s department of legal studies, said that although the city doesn’t really need an injunction to enforce bylaws, it apparently wanted to be cautious.

“They’re simply asking the court to state what is already the case,” Diab told the Straight.

Comments (6) Add New Comment
Occupy Flash Demos? Rotating appearances and sites? Invocation of Lord Randomfactor and Lady Chanceness? But there are two ways to get free of the chains that bind us: Struggle mightily until the weakest link snaps, or just sit around and wait until the chain rusts away. Whichever...
Rating: +4
No leadership
Gregor might want to stop comparing Vancouver's Occupy movement to that of other cities. Vancouver's handling of the situation is by far the worst handling by any civic leader of any city in the world. I believe it is also the only city in the world to have had both a drug overdose and a death attributed to it.

The most glaring reality of Vancouver's situation is the blatant absence of any real leadership from the mayor's office.
Rating: -3
Kenn Spaqce
Dear Canada,

A minor setback in a much longer struggle. Did you see where Israel had a demonstration of 500,000 people demanding concessions from their government? It worked. Listen to Martin Luther King, his words are as meaningful today as they were then. This struggle for economic justice and government control, will be won by the people!

I feel the occupy movement does have a basic underlying message; Stop letting money decide political elections; And regulate corporate lobbying (and all lobbying) making it a public forum. Right now lobbying is mostly two old white guys sitting across from each other in an office. "They" have probably worked with each other or went to the same school; And "they" have promised you a job when you get out of politics, -- tripling your present salary!. The "lobbyist" used to be a "politician", it worked for him!. Who owns who? - That's a "Person-hood".

"I" was at the WTO protests in Seattle Washington, (with thousands of "other" really awesome "people", and a few "freaks") when a bunch of "anarchists" started busting windows with crowbars. We surrounded them, and they got in a circle with their crowbars. I tried to get the "Seattle police" to come arrest "these anarchists”, that were only fifty feet away and threatening violence and breaking windows… The "Seattle police" would not budge from their “police line”, making all of "us" the "enemy".... (There were thousands of "union" and "other" people sitting and standing in the street, - it was a relativly peaceful protest until the windows started breaking…). " I" am not the "enemy".

I will be in Seattle at 700 Stewart street at the Federal courthouse January 20th, 2012!!! I know we can do this better than last time.

The Corporate Occupation of the United States

Our corporate controlled government (through corporate lobbying and election funding ) is out of the peoples control. People want government control back. Makes sense to me… I feel US corporate capitalism (corporatism) is a type of economic fascism: To have a corporate being where the chain of command eventually muddles all responsibility to any human being. These corporate beings are running your life, and controlling your government. (Enough to really make an individual mad and protest.) In reality, the corporate being does not exist, and when it comes to face it’s corporate responsibility, it is a piece of paper. (Or a CEO saying; “I do not recall that”, “I did not have that information”, “that was not my responsibility, I was running the company, and not just that department”,,, and on and on. It has bred a corporate culture of abuse, because they keep getting away with it..), Corporate person-hood is plain and simply wrong: A corporation is not a human being. Restore capitalism to individual responsible chains of command, or this struggle will be lost.

Please Sign the petition to amend the Constitution for revoking corporate personhood at:

(I feel January 20th, 2012: will be a bigger day in US history than WTO in Seattle. The battle continues, rage against the machine is real.)

January 20, 2012 – Move to Amend Occupies the Courts!

Move To Amend is planning bold action to mark this date — Occupy the Courts — a one day occupation on Friday January 20, 2012, of the Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States and as many of the 89 U.S. District Court Buildings as we can. Inspired by Dr. Cornell West, who was arrested on the steps of the Supreme Court last month, Move to Amend will lead the charge on the judiciary which created — and continues to expand — corporate personhood rights.
Rating: 0
You're right, there has been a lack of leadership. I think the real lack of leadership has been on combating homelessness and addiction in this city. But that has nothing to do with the Occupy movement. Sweeping it under the rug, the policy of successive governments, obviously isn't working and it's not going to work this time.
Rating: -3
Rating: -1
Who is this clown (pictured above)?
Dude, get a friggin haircut and a shower and maybe you'll land yourself a job. Lazy bum.
Rating: -2
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