Vancouver street performer silences noise tickets
Vancouver singer Babe Coal is trying to get the courts to determine whether public performances are a right under Canada’s freedom of expression law. (BABECOAL.WORDPRESS.COM)
A local street performer who was handed six tickets for making “prohibited noise” isn’t stopping with the B.C. Supreme Court battle she won this week that waived her fines.
Vancouver-area artist Babe Coal told 24 hours on Thursday she took the ticket dispute to the courts because of her disgust at, seemingly, how every city she travels to tries to silence her voice by stopping her public performances.
“I would have my stuff almost ready to set up and a bylaw car would come right up onto the sidewalk, park in front of me and aggressively threaten to confiscate and take my things without me even playing,” the 24-year-old, whose real name is Megan Regehr, said.
Many cities, she said, have bylaws that interfere with her public singing. In the City of Vancouver, for example, a street entertainment permit is required for all but a handful of select locations. And regardless of where you perform, artists are only allowed to play for 60 minutes in one place.
Their performances also can’t begin before 10 a.m. and must end at 10 p.m. Voice amplification — which Coal uses — is also restricted.
According to the decision published by the courts Thursday, Coal was handed the tickets between July and September 2012 while she performed at the City of North Vancouver’s civic plaza near Lonsdale Avenue.
The singer-songwriter said the real issue is whether public performances are covered under the freedom of expression constitutional right. According to Coal, it’s a point in her case the courts have yet to decide.
She now performs at Robson and Granville, on most days, from 7:30 p.m. onwards.
“I feel like it’s my duty as a Canadian citizen to stand up to these things,” she said.
“When I was a kid … every day I would start my day singing the anthem and I was so proud — thinking (Canada) is the freest country in the world. Now, I’m so shocked.”
Her manager, Mitch Barnes, said the next step would likely be the B.C. Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of Canada.