Public Spaces Bylaw & Why We Fight!

February 9, 2024

Over the past few weeks we have been approached by many community members asking us about the February 14th,City Council meeting where they will be discussing the “Public Spaces Bylaw” proposals from City Administration. You may have seen articles in the media outlining what is being proposed and thought to yourself “What are they actually trying to accomplish here?”

When we took part in the public consultations we said the exact same thing. While the wording of the questions in the consultation showed the intent of their proposed changes, the implications of them can go far beyond what was intended and be detrimental to not only our society, but our democracy. The penalty for violating a bylaw is a fine, a fine that those with money can either choose to pay or pay expensive legal fees to take it to court. For those without money it just adds an additional burden on their road to once again becoming a contributing member of our communities.

The labour movement, led by unions, has always been a defender of our fundamental democratic rights. Included in those is our freedom to assemble, our right of association and our freedom of expression. As a matter of principle, we have never paid fees associated with exercising these rights and we will never pay fees or fines that they impose moving forward. We believe that our democracy is not a pay to play system and any attempt to make it so is fundamentally unconstitutional. Up until now no officer has attempted to levy any fines against the labour movement despite the existing bylaws allowing them to.

The question becomes, why have these bylaws to begin with? There are only two possible answers. They want to be able to levy fines on actions or events they don’t “like”, or they think fines will deter the actions from occurring to begin with. I have already explained why the notion of deterrence has no effect on those with money, and if they think individual officers want to decide which actions are “good” and which are “bad”, they are oblivious to what is happening on the ground in our communities.

So what’s left? They must be hoping to deter those without money from violating these bylaws. We shouldn’t have to explain that our democratic rights don’t only belong to those with money and why any attempt to do so should be stopped dead in its tracks, so we’re not going to waste your time doing that here. They must then be thinking that someone who has no money and in some cases is risking their life multiple times a day is going to care about a fine they aren’t even thinking about having to pay? By issuing tickets for bylaw violations to people with no fixed addresses all we are doing is making it more difficult for them to get back on their feet when they are ready and capable. Isn’t that the goal? To make it easier for people to get back on their feet so they can. It doesn’t take an expert to understand that making it harder for them to get back on their feet will not achieve the change we are trying to create in our communities. In fact, it will have the opposite effect.

For these reasons we are strongly advocating that City Council vote down these recommendations from City Administration as they have been presented. If you want to share your views with your elected representatives on February 14th click HERE, select “City Council”, put in the date 2024 – 02 – 14, and indicate agenda item “6.1” and fill out the rest of the form to register to speak.

We know our community is facing many difficulties right now and there is a lot that must be done to ensure that Edmonton stays the best place to live and raise a family in our province. But these proposals do absolutely nothing to achieve this and need to be dismissed in their current form. We hope to see you there and look forward to continuing to fight to maintain our democratic rights and the rights of working people with you by our side.

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