At the end of the day on Tuesday (April 12), the Georgia Straight received a stunning and disturbing email from the City of Vancouver.
It instructed the company to remove all newsboxes by Thursday (April 14) at noon from the entire Vaisakhi parade route. The Saturday (April 16) celebration takes place along Southeast Marine Drive, Main Street, East 49th Avenue, Fraser Street, East 57th Avenue, and Ross Street.
That’s not all. The Georgia Straight has also been ordered to remove all newsboxes in the vicinity of the Vancouver Sun Run on Sunday (April 17), which goes along West Georgia, Robson, Bute, Thurlow, Burrard, Hornby, Howe, Granville, Seymour, and Richards streets. Newsboxes must also be pulled from these locations by noon on Thursday.
Newsboxes will also have to be pulled from parts of the West End in advance of the 420 event at Sunset Beach next Wednesday (April 20).
The city held no discussions with the Georgia Straight before delivering this diktat. In the past, the company has never been ordered to remove its newsboxes from these three events.
According to the city's email, newsboxes may be relocated 50 metres away from the proposed routes, but not in a residential neighbourhood and only if there’s a commercial frontage.
It will force our local company to allocate resources in a difficult economic environment to pick up dozens of newsboxes on extremely short notice. This is occurring just as weekly newspapers are being loaded on trucks for distribution across the city.
The Georgia Straight pays the city a significant amount in fees every year to place newsboxes on the streets.
We believe that the removal order constitutes a violation of Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of expression, including freedom of the media.
It’s an appalling and unjustified attack not only on a local company that employs dozens of Vancouverites, but also on scores of arts, music, film, and other cultural organizations that rely on the Georgia Straight to help deliver audiences to their performances.
The city stated in an email that if the newsboxes are not pulled from these locations, they will be impounded and publishers will be responsible for the cost of removal.
The move came after a “public safety plan” was developed in coordination with the Vancouver Police Department.
In the absence of any explanation from the city, here’s the only thing we can conclude: officials are petrified of terrorism taking place at the Vancouver Vaisakhi parade, Vancouver Sun Run, and Vancouver 420 event.
If this is indeed the case, then the city should advise all Vancouverites of its concern.