The City of Salmon Arm is proceeding with attaching fines to its street solicitation bylaw which has been in place since May.
As they voted it into effect, the city’s mayor and council stressed the fines are being put in place to ensure the bylaw is enforceable, and their use is to be a last resort.
At its July 22 meeting, council gave final reading to a bylaw amendment that would attach $50 fines to a number of infractions under the street solicitation bylaw.
The amendment allows bylaw and RCMP officers to issue fines for soliciting within 15 metres of a number of locations including restaurants with outdoor seating, ATM machines, bus stops and liquor or cannabis stores. Other actions that are now grounds for fines include soliciting a motor vehicle occupant, sitting or lying on the street and soliciting from a public bench or within a public plaza.
Within the street solicitation bylaw, the city states its main intention is not to issue fines. Preference is given to education, verbal warnings and written notices as methods of achieving compliance with the bylaw.
Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond thanked everyone who reached out to offer their opinion on the fines and the street solicitation bylaw, both those in favour and those who expressed disappointment.
“I am 100 per cent confident that this fine will never be issued. It’s a piece of housekeeping, but also a tool that we have in the event of a very grave situation. We can’t leave the city in a situation where it wouldn’t be able to enforce its own bylaw,” Wallace-Richmond said.
Mayor Alan Harrison said he welcomes feedback both from local residents and from those farther away. He said much of the public reaction ignores the larger context. He said the fines and the bylaw are only one small piece of the conversation around poverty and homelessness in the area. He noted progress is being made on a 103-unit housing development in town which will contain supported housing units.
“We know that putting a roof over people who are homeless is one of the most important things we can do,” said Harrison.
The mayor added the city is working hard to bring an outreach worker for those experiencing homelessness to the community. He said the hope is that position will be funded by the province, and city representatives will be speaking with the minister responsible at the UBCM convention in September.
Harrison said some have insinuated that the councillors who supported the bylaw and the associated fines are not caring and compassionate towards those who are experiencing homelessness, but this is simply not true.
Coun. Flynn stated that if the bylaw does not have fines attached, RCMP officers will not have any enforcement options besides the Safe Streets Act, which could result in criminal charges instead of fines.
The decision to approve the fine structure passed unanimously.
Coun. Sylvia Lindgren was absent for the meeting.