mike watkins dot ca : So Much For Free Speech Vancouver

So Much For Free Speech Vancouver

Inoffensive mural take-down latest in series of chilling-effects

Recently on CBC Radio One Vancouver City councillor Geoff Meggs went to lengths to poo-poo community concerns about 2010 Olympic games-related bylaw changes being voted in by the Vision Vancouver-dominated council.

Paraphrased, he said "I can't believe how many people I know will come up to me at an event or dinner party and express concern that we are going to march into people's property to remove signs". He went on to add that the bylaw changes council sought were only intended to give the city powers to deal with commercial infringement of the Olympic brand, and that in no way were the changes intended to impinge upon free speech.

Oh, really?

Vancouver orders removal of anti-Olympic mural (Marsha Lederman, The Globe and Mail, Friday December 11 2009)

In fact, when her landlord, Peter Wong, received a notice from the city telling him to remove the graffiti from his building, he had no idea what they were talking about. "I called them and said I cannot find the graffiti. And they said the sign [the mural] is graffiti." This surprised him, because the murals have been up for years and he had never heard from the city about them before.

Indeed such murals are common place at The Crying Room which has been showing work inside and outside since 1999. This piece did not draw the attention of city inspectors in 2006:


A handy guide for art-challenged inspectors.

The five-ring piece in question was taken down mid-November.

Patrick Smith, director of Simon Fraser University's Institute of Governance Studies, said the removal of the sign is symptomatic of the high demands the 'Olympic movement' places on its host cities. He believes Vancouver will be the beginning of a shift away from the modern Olympic era, with communities saying the cost of hosting is too high.

"I think the city has kind of caved in to a whole serious of events here," said Prof. Smith, also a past chair of SFU's department of political science. "It [the Olympic movement] dictates an awful lot to local citizens. It's not as if the event isn't interesting and doesn't grab the attention of people around the world, but [the Olympic movement] goes too far and it asks too much."

The next time we hear Meggs or other councillors dishing out happy talk I hope that we are being informed the city inspector made an honest error, or was overzealous and has been scheduled for both an attitude adjustment and an art appreciation lesson. I'd prefer to hope that the inspector's bad taste has not been officially institutionalized by the city managers just in time for the 2010 games.

Yes, I know I'm probably giving the city too much credit here.


Either the city has relented, or the gallery owner has become emboldened. More on this once known... but the mural is back on display. See:


[Thumbnail]Vancouver_anti-O_379361gm-a.jpg (68.2 KB, image/jpeg)
Source: The Globe and Mail; City inspector orders art work removed from store front of Eastside art gallery that has a long history of such public displays of art.
[Thumbnail]not-graffiti-1.gif (62.9 KB, image/gif)
No city inspector popped by to demand this piece be removed. Entitled JUMPSTREET, by Curtis Grahauer