Fines for panhandling in the city have received initial approval, with council emphasizing they’re a last resort.
City council passed a street solicitation bylaw in May, without the accompanying fines included. Those have now been added in an amendment to the ‘ticket information utilization bylaw’ and were given three readings by council on July 8. Final adoption is yet to come.
The fines are $50 per offence.
Infractions listed are:
• soliciting within 15 metres of the places highlighted in the street solicitation bylaw. They include: the entrance to a bank, credit union or trust company; an automated teller machine; a bus stop or bus shelter; a restaurant with outdoor seating or the entrance to a theatre or art gallery.
• soliciting a motor vehicle occupant
• sitting or lying on a street
• public solicitation.
Coun. Kevin Flynn pointed out that Penticton, Kelowna and Kamloops have $100 fines, while the provincial Safe Streets Act, which can only be enforced by police, is $89.
Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond said she sees the fine, “to be blunt,” as a housekeeping detail. She noted the street solicitation bylaw was passed in May and the fine amount was a detail still outstanding.
“The intention was to not fine…,” she said, a principle that was emphasized in a staff report to council.
“Council can have every assurance from staff that the intent of the bylaw is well understood and every effort will be made to resolve compliance issues without the use of the Municipal Ticket Information system,” wrote Maurice Roy, manager of permits and licensing.
The report also outlined what approach will be used for anyone in violation of the street solicitation bylaw.
“The primary method of achieving compliance will be education followed by a request for compliance. If the offense continues, the bylaw officer would then escalate to a verbal warning which could be followed by a written demand notification. City staff’s last resort would be the issuance of a municipal ticket.”
Wallace Richmond emphasized the street solicitation bylaw makes reference to the city working with social agencies to develop a compassionate and collaborative framework in working with vulnerable populations.
Coun. Sylvia Lindgren said she is voting against the fines “with great respect to my fellow councillors.”
She said she knows other councillors have been involved with the issue for a long time and are doing what they think is right. However, “I don’t see how fining people living on the street makes sense.”
Coun. Kevin Flynn said he’s heard both sides of the issue. He asked the public works department how many people have been fined under bylaws like the watering or unsightly premises bylaw. Under watering, none, he was told. Unsightly premises, a few.
Flynn, Wallace Richmond and Coun. Debbie Cannon voted in favour of amending the ticket information bylaw to include panhandling fines, while Lindgren voted against.
Mayor Alan Harrison and Couns. Tim Lavery and Chad Eliason were absent.