A disabled North Vancouver senior claims he was heckled by ONNI staff in full public view over his criticism of the recently installed bronze camel sculpture on Lonsdale and 13th street. Bryan May is a 68-year-old retired senior who lives in Central Lonsdale. He suffers from a spinal cord injury, but is able to walk using crutches. He uses a mobility scooter, however, to navigate the hilly terrain of the city.
Retired disabled pensioner distributed pamphlets critical of the Onni-funded art project in Lonsdale.
May said he was shocked to see the camel at the centre of North Vancouver and has been quite critical of the project since. He also spoke to the council about the project and says it’s an inaccurate description of the camel and is geographically, culturally and socially alien to the City of North Vancouver. The camel sculpture was created by artist Myfanwy MacLeod, who was commissioned by ONNI as part of an art program. ONNI contributed $205,000 towards the project.
Public art rarely wins approval from everyone and opinion is divided over whether the money was well spent or even if camel was the best project for this location. But May claims his public dissent wasn’t well received. He was on his mobile scooter on 13th street on Tuesday, October 11, when he was startled by some curt words directed at him. He looked back and saw they came from two people he instantly recognised as ONNI staff. It was the same two people he claims were setting the place at the unveiling of the camel and were displeased with him for distributing pamphlets critical of the public art project. May claims he and his friends distributed only 3 or 4 pamphlets.
“We didn’t’ solicit the attention of the crowd, we stayed on the edge of the presentation area and gave it only to people who showed some interest. It wasn’t forced on anyone,” he said. It was a peaceful protest although he says those same ONNI staff members who later confronted him glared at him on the day the camel was unveiled for distributing the pamphlets. May claims they recognised him as someone who was distributing the pamphlets.
“It was around 3 pm when these two guys came out of the ONNI development. I was about 20 yards ahead of them and they just started yelling at me and they said, ‘How do you like the camel, old timer?’ he claims. May said he turned around and confronted them: “I said what is your problem, and they said you were the one who vandalised the camel and I said that would be a waste of time and they turned around and said just like your protest was a waste of time,” he said.
May walked away from it but the rude confrontation has left him shocked and angry. “I’m a soft target for these guys as I’m a retired disabled pensioner on a mobility scooter. I don’t want to be accosted on the street by a bunch of punks,” he said. The next day he met Mayor Darrell Mussatto, narrated the incident and asked him to rein in the developers.
May said Mussatto agreed the confrontation was unacceptable and promised to speak to ONNI management about the incident. He has also written to ONNI so they can talk to their staff about appropriate behaviour and ensure that this doesn’t happen again. “I don’t want an apology from them and I hope they will tell their people not to bother me again, but if it happens again, I will contact the police,” he says.