Protestors are to gather outside Penticton’s city hall for a sit-in to express their disapproval of pending bylaw changes. The changes would allow bylaw officers to ticket individuals for sitting or lying on downtown sidewalks, which the group feels is discriminatory against the city’s homeless population. (Western News file photo)

Protestors plan sit in at Penticton council meeting over bylaw changes

The sit-in will take place at 5 p.m. at city hall on June 4

A group of protestors are expected to attend the evening portion of the City of Penticton council meeting tonight to express their disapproval of the proposed Good Neighbour Bylaw changes.

Penticton resident Chelsea Terry organized the city’s first sit-in at Nanaimo Square on May 25 because she believes the proposed changes, which would allow bylaw to ticket individuals for sitting or lying on downtown sidewalks, to be discriminatory against the city’s homeless population. Terry is the organizer of this second sit-in, which is expected to start at 5 p.m. on June 4 outside Penticton’s city hall, and said she anticipates the same attendance and support.

“I’m expecting the same turnout, or maybe a little bit more because thankfully they moved the bylaw presentation from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., said Terry. “So we’ll have some volunteers from the Monday Night Dinners there, and a lady who runs a needle buy-back program in Chilliwack … and there is a gentleman from the dinners that is protesting on his own, so he’ll be there.”

READ MORE: Homeless Penticton man protesting bylaw amendment at city hall

Terry hopes that council will reconsider giving the bylaw change its third reading, which would pass it into law, due to the support her sit-ins have received and one of the councillor’s recent trips as a part of his duties. Adam Power, owner of Local Security at 301 Main St., has been vocal about his support for the bylaw as an impacted business owner, but said he sees the issue from both sides.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Protesters in Penticton gather to rally against sleeping-on-sidewalk bylaw

“As far as the sit-in goes, I think it’s fabulous. I believe in the power of protest, particularly peaceful protest, so it’s really great to see people going out and exercising their rights and giving themselves a voice,” said Power. “I trust that the administrators of the city that are managing bylaw and bylaw enforcement are very aware of the kind of tools they need to be actually able to address them.”

Bylaw officers would be able to fine individuals up to $100 for violating the bylaw if it comes into effect. Power suggested people may be focusing too much on “the fine aspect of the bylaw” since all bylaws must come with a fine amount, and “without the bylaw existing it would be impossible for the people that we pay to enforce” something that isn’t written.

“I’m not as caught up in the fact that someone may be written a ticket when they arguably shouldn’t or when they don’t have the ability to pay,” said Power. “I see it as the city moving forward with meaningful steps to give bylaw the tools that they need to be able to enforce in all of the downtown spaces. So I do support the bylaw because I understand what the intended target of the bylaw is.”

Terry said the group is open to further dicussions with the city and council in order to reach a compromise between both groups, and suggested perhaps rewording the language in the bylaw or deferring the decision to give it its third reading.

“I’m just hoping that people get together and realize that we’ll get further if we talk about it in person, rather than on Facebook,” said Terry. “We all have the same goals, we don’t want to see more property crime and we don’t want to see drug use downtown. We are very different on what the solution is, and personally I don’t think the solution is to do something that hasn’t worked, and isn’t working, across Canada.

READ MORE: City, DPA stand behind changes to Okanagan community’s Good Neighbour bylaw

“I want Penticton to be more of an innovative place. I want it to have modern solutions to modern problems. But we’re sort of stuck in this limbo with councillors that have been there a long time, and they should see that this is not working and it is not going to work. It’s not a tool for bylaw, it’s just a tool to get rid of someone they don’t want to see.”

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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