Vancouver Bans Bagpipes to Public Outcry and Overturns Ban

The week before the 80th Annual Gathering of the British Columbia Pipers’ Association, the Engineering Department of the City of Vancouver issued a new bylaw to ban bagpipes, drums tambourines, bongos and other percussion instruments from receiving busking permits in the city of Vancouver, BC, Canada.

The story was brought to the attention of the media in part by British Columbia Pipers’ Association Grade 1 piper Kyle Banta, and received positive Canadian and international attention, including the CBC, who attended the Annual Gathering, interviewing BCPA President Robert MacNeil and filmed many pipers at the event.

The story was featured on most Vancouver television and radio including CityTV Breakfast Television, as well as the Huffington Post Canada


The ban captured the attention of the community, generating hundreds of comments on the news stories on the Globe and Mail story featuring Kyle Banta and Jack Lee, Pipe Sergeant of Simon Fraser University Pipe Band.  The comments were overwhelmingly in support of bagpipes and drums on city streets and parks.  SFU Pipe Band Pipe Sergeant Jack Lee pointed out that lawnmowers can be louder than bagpipes, who also said “To ban bagpipes is so short-sighted – one of the great instruments of the world, and one of the oldest instruments of the world.”  British Columbia Pipers’ Association was repeatedly contacted for comment and feedback, and Vancouver Area Grade 1 bands Simon Fraser University Pipe Band and Dowco Triumph Street Pipe Band were regularly featured on both television and radio interviews and stories about the bagpipe ban.  On April 10th, the Mayor’s office issued a statement indicating the council would be very unlikely to allow the ban to stand and shortly afterward lifted the ban after working with Engineering Services Director of Transportation Jerry Dobrovolny.

The British Columbia Pipers’ Association supports responsible bagpiping and Scottish drumming that respects the instruments, Scottish Highland dress, the audience, as well as local businesses, dwellings, and local government.  The BCPA supports reasonable restrictions and rules about busking locations, times, and performances that do not interfere with local business or residences, and was in contact with the Mayor’s office shortly after the ban.

Within a week of the ban being announced, thanks in large part to local pipers and drummers speaking out, as well as the general wide support in the community and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson who celebrates his Scottish Heritage, the ban was overturned, also receiving further widespread news coverage, some of which are linked below. Most of the news cast piping and drumming in a positive light, speaking to the heritage of the music and the positive impact it can make both for the players and the general public.

Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association Executive Ian Embelton was quoted in this story from Scotland and other stories ran discussing the ban in Scotland: &

The Scottish Government even got involved when the ban was lifted in this press release.

And in Canada:

The British Columbia Pipers’ Association thanked Mayor Gregor Robertson and Engineering Services Director of Transportation Jerry Dobrovolny , who rescinded the ban for their thoughtful reconsideration and revision of the policy after a week long ban.  Representatives of the British Columbia Pipers’ Association hand delivered this letter to the mayor’s office thanking them for the prompt reconsideration of the ban.