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Ministry of Transportation tells North Van highway demonstrators to cease occupation

Local governments have spoken out against ‘hateful’ messaging that has been displayed on the Mountain Highway overpass
A notice from the Ministry of Transportation affixed to the guardrails of the Mountain Highway Interchange in North Vancouver tells a group that has been gathering on the structure to cease immediately. | Nick Laba / North Shore News

A group of demonstrators that has gathered regularly on a North Vancouver overpass has been told by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to immediately cease its occupation of the area.

While the demonstrators have gathered on the Mountain Highway Interchange on Thursdays for months, displaying anti-vaccination and government conspiracy signs on the guard rails to be seen by drivers on Highway 1 below, recent anti-trans messaging by the group has been denounced by local officials and community members as hate speech. As a result, the city and district of North Vancouver have both released statements expressing that they have contacted relevant authorities, as the structure is not under their jurisdiction.

“If you have taken Highway 1 recently near the Mountain Highway overpass, you may have seen some incredibly hateful, derogatory, and false messages about the LGBTQ2SAI+ community,” North Vancouver City Mayor Linda Buchanan said in a statement on Thursday. A banner reading “Gender Ideology = Child Sex Grooming” was displayed on the overpass in April, and images of the banner have been widely shared on social media.

“These messages go against who we are as a community. Hate speech has no place in the city,” Buchanan said, adding that her office had reached out to the Ministry of Transportation for support.

On Friday, several notices were attached to the guard rails of the Mountain Highway Interchange stating that the ministry prohibits use and occupation of the interchange lands – which are under its control – without authorization from the transportation minister, as per the Transportation Act.

In the attached notice, the ministry said it had become aware of the regular gatherings and that participants had attached banners to the structure and drawn attention to them. “Anyone participating in these gatherings must immediately cease their occupation and must remove all personal property from the lands.”

Failure to comply may result in the transportation minister taking steps to remove the occupants at their expense, the notice reads.

Speaking to the North Shore News, the ministry said the banners appearing on the overpass “are hateful and raise a serious safety issue for people who use the highway.”

The ministry added that its staff are in contact with the local municipality and law enforcement to understand options that can address the safety issue going forward.

“Enforcement is the responsibility of police,” a ministry spokesperson said.

'No criminal offence committed,' police say

Const. Mansoor Sahak of North Vancouver RCMP said that the messaging is hateful in nature, but it doesn’t meet the threshold for hate speech under the Criminal Code.

“We don’t condone that type of behavior in our community,” he said. “It’s not acceptable behavior, and it does not belong in this community.

“With that being said, there are certain protections afforded to them by the Charter of Rights – as you know – freedom of expression and free speech,” Sahak continued. “We’re in a bind by those rules…. We don’t agree with the messaging, but there’s been no criminal offence committed, as of right now.”

He added that his detachment has been in touch with local government and the ministry, and is monitoring the situation closely.

Regarding enforcement under the Transportation Act, “that is potentially something we can look at … but that’s not being considered right now,” Sahak said.

North Shore Pride Alliance co-founder Gary “Fluffer” Woods wonders what the demonstrators are trying to achieve, except to spread hate in the community.

“If they have a message to that they want to take to Ottawa, or they want to take to the MLA, to the B.C. legislature, then that’s what they should do,” he said.

Pride Alliance members have reached out to some of the overpass demonstrators, but they aren’t interested in having a discussion, Woods said. “They’d rather just showboat.”

Woods said the messages of hate need to be countered with love, and is co-ordinating with other community groups and police to organize a counter protest.

“Our youth who are seeing these messages [that are] causing grief to them – it’s important for us to let them know that they are not alone.”

A member of the demonstrator group did not immediately respond to a North Shore News request for comment.