January 21, 2009
People have to pre-register to express themselves or they are automatically in violation of the law.
VANCOUVER –A grass roots group of renters called Renters At Risk was shocked to receive a threatening letter from Elections BC demanding that the group register as an Election Advertising Sponsor by January 27, 2009 for their activities during the 2008 October Provincial by-elections, or face fines of over $10,000 and one year imprisonment.
“We’re just a group of volunteers who meet in each other’s living rooms standing up for a balanced system of renters rights.” asserts Stephen Hammond, a volunteer with Renters At Risk. This grass roots group is neither a registered society, non-profit organization, nor a corporation.
“Since when must citizens register with Elections BC, before they are allowed to criticize government?” asks Hammond.
Renters At Risk emphasizes that this legislation is vague and over-reaching. “It means that ordinary citizens will not be allowed to educate our fellow renters, hold rallies, or post articles online about serious problems affecting our communities without registering with the same government we’re criticizing”, says Christine Ackermann, a volunteer with Renters At Risk.
“Clearly, this is blatant censorship and contrary to our Charter right of freedom of expression,” added Ackermann.
Election Advertising Sponsors must file reports with the government delineating all donations and expenses related to the transmission of their message during, and prior to, an election period. The threshold for spending is one penny.
“When Canadians find out what the BC government is doing, we think they will be outraged. When we tell people they have to register each time they disagree with the government, or ask for improved legislation – or the alternative is jail and extreme fines, they’ll say we’re making it up. Our correspondence from the government will wake up a lot of people,” says Hammond.
For more information, please contact:
Stephen Hammond, 604.685.8338, email@example.com
Christine Ackermann, 604.696.9454, firstname.lastname@example.org