Work of Social Inclusion Campaign Action Team pays off! Vancouver council to review event permitting process

MVA is happy to announce that on December 14th Vancouver City Council unanimously passed a motion which will reduce barriers to community groups hosting outdoor community events.

At MVA's Municipal Accountability Assembly in October 2014, Vancouver's civic politicians committed to reform the city permit process to facilitate community building events. MVA's Social Inclusion Team has been working with city government to streamline the permitting process for small, neighborhood-based, events.

In his address to City Council Paul Clark, co-chair of the Social Isolation Team, spoke of a survey by the Vancouver Foundation that found one in four people living in the city said they felt socially isolated, lonely, or disconnected from their community.

In an effort to reduce this social isolation in Vancouver, many neighbourhood project leaders wanted to host events in the community, but faced barriers including the lengthy process needed to receive an event permit and the cost.

Paul Clark addressing Vancouver City Council 

As an example of these barriers, Paul spoke of project organized by Gordon Neighbourhood House that was aiming to host an event in a park: the proposal called for ten easels to be set up and participants would be able to meet new people and draw portraits of each other. After sourcing donated easels, arranging volunteers supplies and transportation, the permitting process was so onerous and expensive that organizers were forced to cancel the event.

MVA hopes that - in Paul's words - this motion will "unleash the potential of the energy and talent of our Vancouver citizens to make our city known for its heart and its warmth to match its unparalleled beauty."

Thanks to Councillor Andrea Reimer for her interest and persistence in bringing this issue forward and Councillor Heather Deal for sponsoring the motion. If your group has would like to participate in the review, please contact us at


The motion, as passed, reads as follows:


  1. Vancouver has over 500 outdoor special events taking place annually, most of which are small and community-driven, but some of which are larger destination events such as the Jazz Fest and Mural Fest;
  2. The Special Events Policy was first developed in 2004 and no comprehensive review of the policy has been undertaken;
  3. All members of Council currently in office made a specific commitment in the 2014 election to “reform the permit process to make it easier for local groups to put on events in public places;”
  4. Supporting communities in gathering is an important principle of social inclusion and City policies such as Healthy City and Engaged City;
  5. There are established, emerging and potential outdoor destination events that support City priorities and are in need of support in order to grow;
  6. Community groups often perceive and experience barriers to hosting outdoor community events for a variety of reasons;
  7. Community-driven and destination event costs can be unpredictable, variable and create uncertainty for organizers;
  8. The current Special Events Policy neither clearly distinguishes between smaller, community-driven and/or neighborhood-focused events and larger, professionally-produced destination events nor provides detail on City support of those events;
  9. The City does not regularly produce destination events, but does regulate and support them in a variety of ways, and responds to requests to hold destination events but does not have a consistent framework for taking proactive action to enable the creation of new events;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff to review the Special Events policy – in consultation with the public, community groups, stakeholders, and partners – and report back to Council by July 2017 with an update to the Special Events Policy that includes:

  1. Defined event categories with clear criteria including but not limited to “Destination Special Event” and “Community Special Event”;
  2. A “Destination Special Event Strategy” that, working with the Vancouver Park Board, Tourism Vancouver, BIAs and other potential partners and stakeholders, provides:
    • direction regarding method for proactive working with partners to encourage and support new and emerging destination events;
    • greater clarity and certainty for partners wishing to produce destination events in the City or evolve existing events; and
    • recommendations for selection and support criteria including, but not limited to: frequency, type, economic benefits and legacy.
  3. Revisions to the Special Event Policy to support community-driven events that include:
    • plans and processes collaboratively designed to address community concerns and facilitate low-barrier processes for community-driven special events organizers;
    • recommendations regarding funding, staffing and partnerships needed to support community-driven events; and
    • metrics specifically created to monitor how well the revised Special Events policy is supporting community-driven events.
  4. A general, strategic special event framework that provides recommendations on how to improve processes and service, funding models and promote partnerships.
  5. Timeline for change implementation and identification of opportunities, programs and/or actions already undertaken or to be undertaken in the 2017 calendar year.

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