VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A Vancouver man’s decision to launch an online fundraiser to help cover legal costs and recoup his losses after his “makeshift nightclub” was shut down by police is being slammed by a local politician.
On Thursday, Mohammad Movassaghi started a GoFundMe with a goal of $100,000. The page was taken offline soon after it appeared, raising just $260. Movassaghi was arrested last weekend, and is facing two criminal charges after allegedly defying provincial health orders to host gatherings in his home. The penthouse parties reportedly featured tables, menus, cash tills, bartenders, and a DJ.
In his since-deleted post, he said he was raising money to recoup $15,000 he lost when police confiscated cash and liquor.
Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung says this latest move is another slap in the face to hard-hit businesses in the city.
“It’s ridiculous to suggest that he has been hard done by. The people that have been hard done by are the residents of Vancouver, who have been following the rules he broke,” she says.
“Our restaurant sector — our bars and our nightclubs — have been hard hit. Many of them can’t operate many of them are having a tough time. For him to suggest that he’s suffering financial losses from running an illegal commercial activity is laughable.”
Kirby-Yung also notes the parties ran afoul of city rules and bylaws and was apparently profiting from these illicit gatherings.
“He also broke the rules by operating a commercial activity, without a business licence in a residential building in the City of Vancouver,” she explains.
“Was he prepared to pay taxes and declare the income that he was getting on the illegal commercial activity, the illegal nightclub that he was running in his place? I don’t think so.”
She also questions Movassaghi’s decision to take his grievances online.
“It’s such an egregious instance of breaking the rules. It’s probably better to just do a ‘mea culpa’ and apologize than to double down and suggest that you’re the party that has been harmed. He is not.”
Movassaghi also cited his desire to mount a legal challenge against the charges, saying his rights have been violated by both the COVID-19 restrictions, and the way in which they were enforced.
Kirby-Yung says there’s no indication the law was not followed.
“It’s my understanding that the Vancouver Police Department went through all the legal requirements to secure a warrant before entering his premises and the most recent occasion where he was taken away and his commercial illegal party was broken up. And so, from my perspective, I think that the law has been followed,” she says.
Prof. Joel Bakan, who teaches constitutional law at UBC, agrees.
He notes while Canada’s constitution guarantees rights and freedoms, it also allows limits to be placed upon them.
“There is a section in the Charter that guarantees freedom of association. But there’s also a section in the charter that says it’s okay for governments — city governments, provinces — to place limits that are reasonable on people’s rights, including the right to freedom of association,” he explains.
“I think any court is probably going to accept the government’s argument that these kinds of measures are necessary to protect the public good, to protect public health. There’s no more important public interest than the public’s interest in health. That is exactly what this gentleman would be would be going up against– a very legitimate set of policies by government to try to contain this pandemic.”