City hall hears concerns about by-law amendments

Yesterday, I spoke to City Council about their proposed amendments to the Street and Traffic By-law. 

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Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to send emails to Council and share your concerns about these amendments and their failure to take into account the rights of homeless people. Your voices made a difference- several councilors mentioned the number of emails they received on this issue.

I was speaker number five on a list of 18, so I wasn’t expecting to wait very long to make my submissions, but there were so many questions and so much discussion that I ended up being the last speaker of the day.   Speakers brought forward a whole host of concerns about these by-law amendments. Michael Vonn of the BC Civil Liberties Association argued that the amendments would serve to constrain political activity. Clive Ansley, the lawyer for the Falun Gong explained that his clients are not happy with the prohibition on structures in residentially zoned areas because the Chinese Consulate is in a residential zone.

After I gave my submissions, there was a lot of discussion about when and how this by-law might affect the homeless.  Council had questions for me about the impact on homeless rights and the differences between a Red Tent used for shelter and a Red Tent used for a protest. I explained that both uses are protected by the Charter but for different reasons. Councilor Cadman even asked me if homeless people would be able to pay the $1,200 for a permit to put up a Red Tent. I think the answer is pretty clear.

The concerns about this by-law nowhere close to be being resolved, but our message has been heard and Council is setting another date to hear the rest of the speakers on this issue. We’ll keep you posted