Kingston city council to consider new Community Standards Bylaw tonight

City Hall in Kingston, Ontario, the white building illuminated and standing out at st night.
Kingston City Hall. Photo by Christena Lawrie.
Christena Lawrie - CFRC - KingstonON | 21-11-2023
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Community organizations supporting people experiencing homelessness have expressed their concerns with the new Community Standards Bylaw which will be discussed at tonight’s city council meeting.

The new Community Standards Bylaw was recommended at the last Administrative Policies Committee meeting earlier this month, and with all five city council members who serve on the Administrative Policies Committee voting in support of the bylaw, it was moved forward to be considered by council at tonight’s meeting. But some organizations and individuals in Kingston are concerned that this bylaw will only serve to target already marginalized populations.

The bylaw includes provisions surrounding loitering, yelling, damage to city property, safe use of public spaces, vehicle idling, and various other problematic behaviors noted in public spaces, especially focusing on the downtown core.

While this bylaw was presented as a step in the right direction to address increasing feelings of public fear and unsafety in the downtown core, organizations and individuals have called on city council to turn down the bylaw tonight, calling the bylaw "discriminatory" and "ineffective."

In a release from the Kingston Encampment Support Network (KESN), they stated that this bylaw “will inherently target people who experience visible poverty, many of whom are unhoused, experience mental illnesses, are living with disabilities, have experienced trauma, and/or use substances.”

“Research has shown us that punishing people who experience visible poverty for simply being in public spaces is not effective, especially since these individuals often have nowhere else to go,” says Sophie Lachapelle, member of KESN. “Bylaws like the proposed Community Standards Bylaw do not meaningfully improve public safety or quality of life when the behaviours they try to manage are rooted in poverty. In fact, bylaws like this have been shown to make poverty worse, not better. Even when people aren’t fined, bylaws like this result in more trauma, more potential for problematic behaviours, and are a drain on municipal resources that could be allocated more effectively to reduce poverty.”

Councilors and other attendees of the meeting earlier this month in support of the Bylaw maintain that the Bylaw does not target people, but addresses behaviors which prevent visitors and residents from sharing safe and healthy public spaces.

To watch tonight’s city council meeting where the bylaw will be discussed, the livestream can be seen on the Kingston City Council Youtube Channel.

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