Protest planned against Kelowna bylaw change banning sleeping on sidewalks at night | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Protest planned against Kelowna bylaw change banning sleeping on sidewalks at night

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December 02, 2016 - 2:30 PM

KELOWNA – A group of residents are planning to rally outside Kelowna City Hall next week to show their opposition to a proposed new bylaw that would make it illegal to sleep on sidewalks at night.

UBC Okanagan School of Nursing professor Katrina Plamondon organized the event, which is being promoted through a Facebook event page. Sit down to take a STAND for People Without Homes takes place Monday, Dec. 5 at 4:30 p.m. outside Kelowna City Hall on Water Street.

“Do we as a community think it is OK to simply displace poverty because it is uncomfortable to witness?” a post on the Facebook page says. “Let’s instead ask how our community can explore more compassionate and proactive responses.”

More than 60 people have already signed up to join.

Last week, Kelowna city council gave third reading to a bylaw change that would make sitting or sleeping on public sidewalks punishable by a $50 fine, 24 hours a day. Mayor Colin Basran defended the legislation saying the purpose is to prevent people from obstructing sidewalks and preventing accessibility for residents.

“The bylaw also prevents people from congregating on sidewalks and intimidating others," he said in a statement released on the City of Kelowna website. “I want to be abundantly clear the City of Kelowna is not targeting people sleeping on our streets with the purpose of harassing or incarcerating our most vulnerable residents.”

However, critics of the bylaw change say that is exactly what will happen.

“Many people who sit or sleep on Kelowna sidewalks do so because they have nowhere else to go,” a post to the Facebook group says. “Shelters are full and housing is not accessible for many. Even parks are closed at night."

The group organizing the protes says most people who might be fined would not have a means to pay the ticket.

"The city’s homeless require mercy and assistance, support programs and opportunities — not a legal whipping."

Currently it is only illegal to sleep or sit on sidewalks during the day between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., but if the bylaw passes fourth reading later this month, it will be illegal 24 hours a day.

“The current bylaw seems to suggest that homelessness inconveniences people trying to access the downtown restaurant district. Council should have rejected the message endorsed by this bylaw; that some Kelownians don’t matter as much as others," the post says.

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