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Friday, January 30, 2009

Lawyer urges Vancouver Falun Gong protesters to appeal injunction

Georgia Straight: The lawyer representing a group of Falun Gong practitioners has said he will recommend that they appeal today’s B.C. Supreme Court ruling granting an injunction that requires them to remove a hut and billboards stationed outside the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver.

Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein issued a 37-page ruling today (January 29) upholding the City of Vancouver’s application seeking the take down of the structures erected by the protesters.

“First of all, they are not coming down without a further fight that’s for sure,” lawyer Joseph Arvay said today, after the judgment came down. “I haven’t got instructions and I’ve only just been given the reasons [for judgment] and I haven’t even been able to reach my client, but I can tell you unequivocally, that I am recommending an appeal because, with all due respect to the court, I don’t think the decision is correct.”

The Falun Gong practitioners’ 24-7 vigil outside the consulate dates back to August 2001, during former Vancouver mayor Philip Owen’s reign, and was initially a 300-hour relay sit-in hunger strike, according to the court decision. It evolved into the around-the-clock protest vigil that survived the mayoral eras of Larry Campbell and Sam Sullivan.

The ruling notes that Sullivan wanted the structures removed in 2006 “as part of his public order agenda”.

“The evidence of the now former Mayor, which I accept, is that his wish to do so had nothing to do with the fact that the structures were in front of the Chinese Consulate or because of the sensitivities of the Chinese government,” Stromberg-Stein states in the judgment. “Rather, it was a public order issue concerning the integrity of the City’s by-laws.”

The judge gave the protesters one week to remove the structures.

Arvay reiterated that he is still waiting to speak to his clients, and receive further instructions.

“I will be recommending an appeal,” he said. “I’ll be recommending that the decision of the judge be stayed pending the appeal, and I’ll be asking the city solicitor to ask the new mayor [Gregor Robertson] whether he really is going to pursue the policies of the previous administration, and whether in fact he will allow the vigil to remain, whether or not there is an appeal. We are certainly not accepting this decision as the last word.”

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