$100 fines for sitting on sidewalk sensitive subject in downtown Penticton | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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$100 fines for sitting on sidewalk sensitive subject in downtown Penticton

Quebec fruit pickers take a break for some busking on Penticton's Main Street less than 24 hours after city council agreed to a bylaw amendment restricting sitting and laying down.
May 22, 2019 - 5:00 PM

PENTICTON - The day after Penticton City Council approved a bylaw amendment restricting sitting and laying on downtown sidewalks, two things are readily apparent: everyone has an opinion about it, but few want to air their views publicly.

Few merchants in the city’s 200 and 300 blocks of Main Street cared to share their views on council’s endorsement yesterday, May 21, of a bylaw amendment that would see sitting and laying on downtown sidewalks subject to a $100 fine between May and September.

The same was true of most of the general public interviewed, many of who said off the record they favoured the amendments, citing such things as the desire for a pleasant experience downtown, and the unsightliness of someone sprawled on the sidewalk.

Merchant sentiment was similar, when voiced off the record. Understanding the controversial nature of the topic, many merchants feared alienating their clientele by voicing a contrary opinion.

Penticton resident Liz McGibbon said in her experience the homeless and street people have been “harmless and quite friendly.”

“In all 11 years I’ve never had one bother me. If you move them from here, they are just going to go somewhere else,” she said, sitting on a bench in Nanaimo Square today. “You have to be kind to people. If you’re sitting on a chair, or in the street, you just have to be kind."

James, who refused to provide his last name, said the bylaw amendment was “not very good at all.”

Pausing on his bicycle in Nanaimo Avenue, he said the issue was about people being mad because there were homeless people around.

“If someone’s riding and they get tired and just want to sit for awhile, they can get fined $100,” he said, motioning to Jeffer’s French Fries van down the street. “If they go eat at Jeffer’s and decide to sit in the street after, they can be charged 100 bucks. Instead of getting mad about homelessness, how about helping out?”

Jan Petrasek, owner of Petrasek’s Bakery on Main Street, turned the question around when asked how he felt about the amended bylaw.

“It’s not about retailers, it’s about walking down the street. Are you OK with walking down the street and having someone sitting, kicking their legs out? They call it a sidewalk, you’re supposed to walk,” he says. “There is a public park you can go to and lay down, but the street is for people moving up and down."

“My opinion is like everyone else’s, and it’s not because I have my job downtown. I care about the safety and beauty of this town. I’m making my life here. Why are we supposed to tolerate the one per cent of people who make trouble for everyone else?" he says.

Miguel, Gabriel and Kevin are French-Canadian pickers who, unaware of the newly amended bylaw, were taking a break on the sidewalk adjacent the 200 block breezeway today.

Miguel said bylaws weren’t always consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but when told the city had sought legal opinion on the bylaw, said, “I don’t understand why everyone is push, push push.”

“I think we should be able to sit down where we want, maybe not lie down and sleep on the sidewalk, but just sitting down. We’re not bothering anyone, we’re doing what we have to do,” Gabriel said while sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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