Policing costs for community events have skyrocketed in Vancouver and across Canada, forcing many local events to shut down.
It’s that time of year again. Our annual April 20 4/20 protest is approaching, and with that comes endless headlines about how expensive the event is for Vancouver’s overburdened taxpayers. But behind the 4/20 headlines there’s a bigger story: about how soaring policing costs are shutting down public events and parades not only in Vancouver, but all across the country.
Vancouver used to have a fun St. Patrick’s Day Parade, but it’s been cancelled for the past two years because organizers can’t afford to pay the high policing costs for their event. Vancouver used to have fun New Year’s Eve event at the art gallery downtown, but it got cancelled because of the rising costs in policing. High policing costs almost killed Vancouver’s annual Santa Claus Parade last year; the event was only saved with last-minute support from a major corporate sponsor.
Vancouver used to have two amazing community events put on by a group called Public Dreams. Its Illuminares Lantern Festival at Trout Lake and its wonderful Halloween costumed community gathering called “The Parade of Lost Souls” were both beloved local traditions in East Vancouver.
Unfortunately, as these events grew in popularity, the city and police demanded more and more money. Eventually these grassroots community organizers were forced to shut down due to the city demanding they pay “soaring policing, security, and infrastructure costs”.
Vancouver’s Pride Parade also struggles with soaring policing bills. In 2010 its entire bill for police, sanitation, transit and park permits was $58,425. By 2016 the bill had more than doubled to $125,000, with the increase almost entirely due to higher policing costs. This unexpected jump in policing costs threatened to bankrupt the Vancouver Pride Society, and ultimately the city decided to forgive $75,000 of the debt from 2016, on top of the $59,000 in subsidies the Pride Society already receives from the city. Without this debt forgiveness, the Vancouver Pride Society would likely have been forced into bankruptcy.