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In support of Kelowna's homeless

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December 21, 2016 - 10:01 AM

On December 5, 2016, Kelowna's city council voted unanimously to amend a bylaw against sitting or lying on sidewalks, effectively making it an offense at any time of the day or night and further marginalizing the most vulnerable among us – the poor.

Most people who sit or sleep on Kelowna’s sidewalks do so because they have nowhere else to go.  Shelters are full and housing is not easily accessible or affordable.  Even the parks are closed at night.  Most people fined $50 for breaching the bylaw would not have the ability to pay the ticket, anyway, which leads to the question:  why does Mayor Basran believe the bylaw amendment is not intended to harass the homeless? 

The mayor has also stated that files created in the case of bylaw infraction would be turned over to police if a person is thought to be involved in criminal activity.  Why does the city wish to confuse municipal bylaw jurisdiction with criminal law and get involved in the latter?  It is an obvious move toward the criminalization of poverty.  In fact, two weeks ago the RCMP arrested a homeless person for obstructing a sidewalk in Kelowna.  Formally, the charge was ‘obstruction of justice’, which is ironic.  What is being obstructed is justice for the homeless.  They need housing, not handcuffs.

Residents responded to this bylaw amendment from the outset.  The first campaign action was an open letter to Kelowna's mayor and council protesting their persecution of the homeless.  The second action was the "Sit Down to Take a Stand" rally in support of Kelowna's homeless.  A third campaign action has now been organized.  Participants will send one of seven seasonal greeting cards to mayor and council, reminding them of an old lesson learned:  when homelessness strikes, mercy must follow.

This action is not restricted to residents of Kelowna.  Learn more here:

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