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Vancouver looks to turn down volume on hate speech from street preachers

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Feb 21, 2021 at 6:18 pm PDT

Summary

Changes to Vancouver's bylaws aims to address the issue of street preachers spewing hate after numerous complaints

The city is proposing a $250 ticket for unauthorized offenses and 'amplification devices' could be seized

Coun. Pete Fry explains the bylaw changes are a response to anti-LGBTQ+ street preachers last summer

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Vancouver is looking at changes to its noise bylaws next week as anti-LGBTQ+ street preachers continue using microphones to spread messages of hate.

Numerous noise complaints have been made to the city over the last year about the hate-based preachers who use microphones and speakers to amplify their messages, and now staff is proposing a $250 fine “for use of an amplification device on a street” in response. The proposal also suggests police and bylaw officers have the ability to seize amplification devices.

RELATED: West End assault leaves Vancouver man with broken leg, follows confrontation with homophobic street preachers

Coun. Pete Fry explains the idea stems from incidents last summer when one of the street preachers was charged with assault after an altercation sent one man to hospital with a broken leg.

“The incidents that we had with this particular homophobic street preacher really tested the boundaries of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. And I think it’s important to recognize we need to protect everybody’s freedom to be who they are and not feel abused in the public streets of Vancouver,” he tells NEWS 1130.

He says the bylaw allows for discretion, and it isn’t about silencing protests.

“I think where it crosses the line is when it gets to this point of not a one-off protest, but rather just an obnoxious and egregious abuse of that to the point of creating a public annoyance,” he says.

Justin Morrisette is still recovering from a shattered leg from the August altercation when he took away a street preacher’s microphone who had been spewing homophobic rhetoric in Vancouver’s West End for most of the summer.

Morissette, who is with NEWS 1130’s sister station Sportsnet 650, says he was standing up to the street preachers and refused to give back the microphone.

“In a judo-style takedown he wrenched my leg against his until my tibia and fibula snapped, broke and my knee dislocated. He absolutely one-thousand per cent knew that that was going to happen when he did that, this was a malicious intentional break of my leg,” he said in August.

RELATED: Street preacher charged with aggravated assault turns self in to Vancouver police

Fry says the city realized it didn’t have the tools in place to shut down instances where someone is using microphones or speakers in a public place in a way that infringes on other people’s freedoms and rights.

“It’s a delicate balance, but I think this gives us a little more discretion,” he says. “The Charter of Rights and Freedoms does guarantee freedom of belief and expression, and it protects those rights. But at the same time, we need to protect everybody’s rights and freedoms.”

Council will review the bylaw changes Wednesday.

-with files from Tarnjit Parmar, Lisa Steacy, and Ria Renouf