Vancouver postpones decision on noise bylaw meant to address anti-gay West End preachers
VANCOUVER -- Vancouver city council won't be considering a ban on amplification devices indefinitely.
The proposed update on the noise bylaws would require people to obtain permits before they can use a microphone and/or amplifier to speak in public spaces. But it has now been sent back to staff.
Justin Morissette, a local sportscaster who suffered a broken leg and other fractures after confronting a group preaching homophobic sermons in the West End last summer, said he supports the issue being discussed but isn't convinced the proposal is the solution.
"There could be the possibility that introducing these measures stifles free speech -- actual valuable speech -- not hate speech," he said. "I don't think there is an easy fix here but I do think that they do have an obligation to do something because you know, doing nothing is what got us in this situation in the first place."
Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung said she is disappointed council has deferred the issue back to staff.
"I would've liked us to take a stand and send a signal to our LGBTQ community that we support them and we're trying to bring tools forward that can address really problematic and hurtful situations like this," she said.
City staff members are now being asked to look into mobile units where bylaw officers would be deployed to areas where people are spontaneously using loud speakers.
But Kirby-Yung worries the new report won't be ready in time for summer when most of these preachers are out in full force, and staff will find that the idea isn't feasible.
"Our city legal staff made it very clear that the city doesn’t have the right to regulate speech but we do have the right to regulate noise," she explained. "I think having those restrictions around amplification devices would have provided a tool, that we don’t have right now, to shut down really egregious situations like the preacher we had on the West End."
There is no timeline for when a new report will come back to council.
Morissette hopes the discussion continues and the issue isn't put on the back burner and forgotten.
"I want to deal with this one singular problem, which is people using religious expression as a cover for pushing hate speech in my community," he said.
Morissette is pursuing this issue in another avenue as well.
Last Friday, he launched a lawsuit against Dorre Love, the man facing an aggravated assault charge, a group called Christ's Forgiveness Ministries, the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department.