Letter: Salmon Arm’s proposed panhandling fine mean spirited

Writer says bylaws used to erase homeless people from the view of businesses and consumers

Re: “Salmon Arm to fine panhandlers $50 as a last resort.”

Quite simply stated, this is a mean spirited act which can best be described as poor bashing.

Such bylaws do nothing to contribute to public safety or security and, in fact, make life less safe and secure for homeless people. The use of bylaws and bylaw enforcement to target homeless people shows the growth of what criminologists call layered policing in which surveillance and punishment are extended into, often replacing, community services.

This is one of the spreading attempts, seen in several municipalities in British Columbia, as highlighted in your report, to erase homeless people from the view of businesses and consumers, and to punish them if they insist on remaining as a public reminder of social inequality, injustice and the failures of public policy in our communities.

That these policies are often about redefining public space as commercial space is clear in the bylaw provisions, as cited in your report:

“Soliciting within 15 metres of the places highlighted in the street solicitation bylaw. They include: the entrance to a bank, credit union or trust company; an automated teller machine; a bus stop or bus shelter; a restaurant with outdoor seating or the entrance to a theatre or art gallery.”

Read more: City’s proposed panhandling bylaw returns for public hearing

Read more: Fines added to Salmon Arm’s panhandling bylaw to be used as last resort

Read more: New bylaw: No panhandling allowed within 15 metres of some businesses

Other so-called infractions, such as sitting on street or soliciting in public are telling. Certainly, tourists are not prevented from sitting in a street enjoying lunch or a coffee at a restaurant or café and businesses are not prohibited from soliciting in public. What else, after all, are ads, signage, and sandwich boards (that block our streets and walkways)?

Dr. Jeff Shantz,

Department of Criminology,

Kwantlen Polytechnic University


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