Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Aug. 3, 2009)

The Squeaky Wheel

By Bob Cooper



Each year Vancouver’s ethnic and cultural groups stage community events such as Greek Days, Italian Days, the Chinese New Year’s Day Parade, or the Gay Pride Parade.  They obtain all the required permits then hand over a whack of cash to the City to pay for street closures, barricades, city workers, and off-duty police officers.  These events contribute to the rich diverse culture which has made Vancouver famous.  Their organizers act responsibly and obey the law because it’s the right thing to do.

On the other hand, groups like Critical Mass contribute nothing and exist for the sole purpose of imposing their agenda on everyone else by causing the maximum disruption to rush hour traffic each month.  Full of self-righteous arrogance they violate the Motor Vehicle Act, City By-Laws, and trample on the rights of the motoring public who have paid taxes to use those roads.  In most civilized societies blatant lawlessness has consequences.  The police step in, stop the behavior and arrest those who continue it.  If they encounter resistance they bring in more cops.  They don’t back down, they restore order and respect for the rule of law.  Not here.

Here, the police tell law-abiding citizens to avoid the downtown area and not only hand the streets over to these thugs but escort them as well.  In support of this they claim that Critical Mass is a form of protest, protest is protected by the Charter of Rights, and this obligates the police to assist them.  Pardon?  While the Charter routinely allows criminals to get away with their crimes there is no provision whatsoever in the Charter that permits them to commit those crimes in the first place.  No right in the Charter is absolute and those rights that are protected must be exercised lawfully.  The Charter guarantees freedom of speech but you can’t shout “Fire” in a crowded theater.

The Charter isn’t the villain here.  Frankly, the police are in a no-win situation and have been for decades.  Crown Counsel has a policy of refusing to prosecute in cases of civil disobedience (though most would agree that this goes far beyond civil disobedience).  They claim to judge each case on an individual basis but the police know different.  The VPD have been very reluctant to properly deal with unlawful protests and labour disputes since the Gastown Riots of 1971 and the subsequent Inquiry that laid the blame at their door.  The lesson this taught to successive generations of NCOs and Officers was that career-wise, the safest course of action is to simply stand back and do nothing.  While I strongly disagree with this doctrine I can certainly understand it.   Once bitten, twice shy.

And where is our city government in all of this?  Councilor Geoff Meggs is quoted in the Province as saying “Critical Mass organizers are not trying to poke their thumbs in the eyes of drivers, although I know a lot of drivers feel that’s the only reason they do it”.   Really?  Perhaps the drivers feel this way because unlike Councilor Meggs, they have common sense and know exactly what Critical Mass is up to.  Yes, this is the same Councilor Meggs who, along with Councilors Jang and Reimer, met with a group of protestors who didn’t like being issued tickets for violating City By-Laws and promised to try to get the tickets withdrawn. 

And what of our Mayor and Chair of the Vancouver Police Board?  An editorial in the Vancouver Sun yesterday called for him to show some leadership and tell the VPD to do their job.  This led to some lukewarm criticism from the Mayor and a call for Critical Mass organizers to work with the police.  If you’re wondering why the Mayor wasn’t a little stronger in denouncing the tactics of Critical Mass, wonder no more.  Seems that while seeking the Mayoral nomination, His Honor participated in a Critical Mass ride himself for the self-serving purpose of making a campaign speech at the end of the ride in which he pledged to make Vancouver “the bicycle capital of Canada”.  Law abiding motorists?  Let them eat cake. 

Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2009