10/01/2013 03:26 EDT | Updated 10/02/2013 01:32 EDT

Sensible BC SkyTrain Evictions Lead To Elections BC Complaint


Sensible BC leader Dana Larsen has filed a complaint with Elections BC alleging that TransLink staff and transit police are preventing campaigners from gathering signatures at SkyTrain stations.

The complaint follows a series of incidents in which volunteers with the campaign to decriminalize marijuana were told to stop collecting signatures in fare paid zones, says Larsen.

"We're not trying to have confrontations," Larsen told The Huffington Post B.C.

"We just want them to acknowledge our constitutional right to canvas at the SkyTrain station and other public spaces."

Around noon on Monday Sept. 30 at the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain station canvasser Bruce Myers was transferring between trains when two people stopped him and asked to sign the petition.

Myers told The Huffington Post B.C. that as he was taking them on the platform -- in a fare paid zone -- before a supervisor came and told him that wasn't allowed.

The day before, Myers said, he and another volunteer had set up a table inside the Compass gates at Surrey Central SkyTrain station at around 2:30 p.m.

Myers said a TransLink staffer told them that they couldn't locate there. After he stood his ground, arguing that they weren't impeding any transit users, two RCMP officers came and told them to move, which they did..

TransLink spokesman Derek Zabel said groups are allowed to campaign in SkyTrain stations, but not in fare paid zones.

Transit police spokeswoman Anne Drennan echoed his statement, saying that safety concerns prevent people from canvassing in areas where people might be boarding trains.

"That applies to anybody and everybody who would be out there such as campaigners during political campaigns, people handing out pamphlets," she said.

"If you've got people who are stopping people to talk to them ... it starts to bottleneck and block the flow of passengers moving on and off the trains."

Larsen responded by citing legal advice that the campaign can collect signatures in fare paid zones.

"If I'm wrong, let's resolve that, but my understanding, and the court decisions that I've seen and everything I'm aware of, we are allowed to do what we're doing and they are the ones in the wrong," he said.

The weekend incidents aren't the first times that Sensible BC has come up against the transit authorities.

Last week, campaigners were asked take down tent-style canopies and tables at two separate stations out of concerns about blocking transit users, Drennan said.

A 2001 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada over the case of Ron Churchill, a man arrested for distributing political pamphlets during an election campaign, caused TransLink to review their policies, The Georgia Straight reported at the time.

According to the Straight, the policy was changed to permit election campaigning and other forms of expression on TransLink property, providing the activity does not impede the use of the transit system and activists are not in a fare paid zone.

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