Public space bylaws can't fix what community can, advocates say

Public space bylaws can't fix what community can, advocates say

· The Pulse

As council sends the proposed public spaces bylaw back to the drawing board, the city as a whole needs more patience with community-based solutions that don't require enforcement to change social disorder, advocates said on Episode 251 of Speaking Municipally.

Cheryl Whiskeyjack, executive director of Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, said she is already working with the city on programs that look for solutions beyond fines, like the Community Outreach Transit Team.

"The wonderful thing about that partnership is that we are also building capacity in people who work in enforcement to have a different conversation or develop different tools to work with people," Whiskeyjack said. "These strategies need time to take root and show outcomes … It takes time to develop these relationships with folks that we're meeting in these spaces, to develop trust with people that we're meeting in these spaces."

Items proposed in the bylaw included new and increased fines for behaviours like open drug use, loitering, and riding bikes on grass. On Feb. 14, council sent the proposal back to administration for changes. The episode was recorded before this decision.

Fellow guest Omar Yaqub, servant of servants for IslamicFamily, said fining unhoused people does not make less people become unhoused. Fixing long-term problems requires long-term solutions.

"We have tools that we know of work," Yaqub said. "We have partners who want to be part of the solution, engage with the city, and collaboratively work together. And together we can solve these problems. Not in a month, not in a season, but over time."

At the Feb. 14 meeting, council directed administration to create a report on alternatives to ticketing.

Hear more about the proposed bylaw, anecdotes about lived experiences of difficulty existing in spaces, and Whiskeyjack and Yaqub's work to find solutions on the Feb. 16 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast. You'll also hear discussion on the Katz Group's lawsuit against Boyle Street Community Services.

Photo: Churchill Square, part of the discussion on the proposed public spaces bylaw, is pictured during the Winter Shakeup in 2015. (Mack Male/Flickr)