Whistlerites to learn their rights 

B.C. Civil Liberties Association to host legal rights workshop

Whistlerites ought to know their rights come 2010 - and here's how they can do it.

Whistler Watch is hosting a workshop with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association next week titled "Know Your Rights." It will teach people about new laws in place during the Olympic period, what you have a legal right to do during the Games and what your rights are in case you're arrested.

"It is a tough time to be a critic," reads a Whistler Watch news release.

Present at the workshop will be David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, who has emerged in Vancouver media as a kind of point-man on issues related to civil rights and the ability to protest during the Games.

He's taking his show to Whistler because he wants to ensure protesters know what their legal rights are in the course of opposing the Games.

"There are people (in Whistler) who are interested, I understand, in protesting and otherwise just generally interested in knowing what their rights are to access their homes and businesses during the Games," he said.

Eby went on to say the workshop will offer "basic information about when the police can search you, when they can detain you, when they can arrest you, what it looks like when you're arrested and also what information you must give to police and what information you have the right to refuse to give to police."

He said freedom of expression could be a sticking point during the Games, a right that he alleges is "under attack" in the lead up to the Olympics and Paralympics.

"I think one of the key rights so far that has emerged is freedom of expression and the right of people to protest or voice opposition to the Games because that appears to be the right that is most under attack right now," Eby said.

He cited examples such as some bylaws passed by the City of Vancouver as well as Bill 13, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, which gives municipal officials in Whistler, Vancouver and Richmond the rights to enter private properties and remove signs with 24 hours' notice.

In Whistler's case the changes only mean that municipal officials are required to give less notice before entering a property and remove signs that are contrary to the existing bylaw.

Eby nevertheless feels there's potential at the Games for limits on free speech by security authorities like the RCMP and the Integrated Security Unit.

"I'm hopeful that there won't be any rights violations in Whistler," he said. "With that said there's always the possibility. There's going to be 13,000 members of the security force for the Olympics and there will be tens of thousands of visitors and residents.

"The most likely rights violations are going to be minor infractions related to illegal searches or detentions, and probably closely-related to protests that will be taking place either in Whistler or Vancouver."

Though the workshop will undoubtedly be useful for protesters, organizers insist that it isn't just for Games opponents. Anyone interested in their legal rights is encouraged to attend.

The workshop will be held Thursday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. To pre-register for the event and get its location, e-mail whistlerwatch@hotmail.com.



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