The fight to poster

Toronto City Council is trying to enact a by-law that would drastically limit postering in Toronto. Public pressure forced a re-examination of the proposal, the results of which are due in early 2004. For postering advocates, though, this temporary reprieve falls far short of what they're after: recognition and respect for their right to free expression.

I made my first poster when I was eight years old. It was the day of the block-wide yard sale. All of my neighbours turned their storage spaces inside-out, and the small-town Saturday bargain hunters busied themselves trying to find two matching plates or lamps to complement the orange floral-print wing-back couches in their rec rooms.

I unfolded a card table in front of my house and set up shop, but the junk-finder parade failed to notice me; the action seemed concentrated at the other end of the street. So I tore a flap off a cardboard box, drew a big arrow on it to show the way and, in woefully uneven block letters, wrote: "YARD SALE! TOYS, BOOKS AND HOUSEHOLD GOODS." (In a formidable display of ethics, I even crossed off the S in "GOODS" when I realized that the only thing on my table in the latter category was my mom's old spice rack.) I taped my sign to a pole on what seemed like the hot corner of the neighbourhood sale, biked madly back to my wares, and waited. By the end of the day, I'd made eight dollars. I was rich.

Since then, I've postered for everything from school dances to political rallies to rock shows. In April 2002, I read that Toronto City Council planned to place heavy restrictions on its citizens' ability to put up posters. Some city staff, under continued pressure from Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) and other groups, want the city to look spotless; a half-torn poster is, to them, an unsightly mess. They want to sanitize our streets