The campaign to force a provincial referendum on marijuana reform is formally complaining to Elections BC that some of its petitioners have been blocked from signing up transit riders at SkyTrain stations.
Sensible BC director Dana Larsen said canvassers have a right to campaign at rapid transit stations, where they can reach large numbers of people, but faced interference from Transit Police Sept. 25 at stations in Richmond, Burnaby and Surrey, and again at Surrey Central station on Sunday when SkyTrain attendants summoned the RCMP.
Larsen said TransLink, which is named in the complaint, has already accepted Sensible BC’s legal right to canvas at stations and the incidents where petitioners were told to leave may stem from internal miscommunication.
“We just want them to leave us alone,” he said. “We’re allowed to canvas there as long as we’re not obstructing anybody or blocking their path or being rude or anything.”
Sensible BC is three weeks into a 90-day campaign to collect enough signatures in every B.C. electoral district to force a provincial referendum on legislation that would block police enforcement for possession of small amounts of cannabis.
“Because of the very limited time frame we have for this campaign, every day counts,” Larsen said.
Transit Police spokesperson Anne Drennan said that while canvassing at SkyTrain stations is permitted, the petitioners in question had set up tent-like canopies, tables and chairs without getting TransLink permission.
“That’s the difference maker here,” she said. “You have to get permission to set up structures on TransLink property.”
She said that permission might well be granted – the petitioners just haven’t asked.
Drennan said canvassers aren’t allowed in the fare-paid zones, but they can canvas elsewhere in stations, provided they stay a minimum distance away from escalators and ticket vending machines so they don’t impede the flow of passengers.
Larsen isn’t yet revealing how many signatures have been gathered, but said he remains “cautiously optimistic” the campaign can succeed.
He said 2,500 canvassers are now registered and they’re getting more efficient at signing people up.
Larsen expects the bulk of sign-ups will happen in the second half of the campaign, closer to the early December deadline.