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Olympics bylaws could ‘clobber’ the homeless: Cadman

New changes to Vancouver’s Olympics bylaws could be used to clear homeless people from the Downtown Eastside, city councillor David Cadman worries.

“Obviously this is one of the poorest areas in town,” he told council. “My fear is that this is going to be an ability to harass people and remove them.”

City council debated new amendments to its contentious Olympics bylaws today. The main thrust of the changes is to make a clear distinction between commercial and political speech.

But they also give the city greater leeway to write $250 tickets for offences such as street vending. Normally, violators receive a notice to appear in court and fines are issued at a judge’s discretion.

The powers are temporary measures that apply throughout the city. They run from Feb. 6 to March 21.

Cadman was concerned changes could be used to “clobber” homeless street vendors in order to force them from public view.

“We have no intention of using this opportunity to so-called ‘cleanup’ the Downtown Eastside,” City Manager Penny Ballem said. “We’re going to use this judiciously.”

B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director David Eby had some doubts.

“The intentions are always good,” he said. “It’s the implementation that can be problematic.”

Bylaw enforcement is a sensitive issue in the Downtown Eastside. Critics charge Vancouver police with a “ticketing blitz” to clear the streets last winter. Officers handed out hundreds of fines for minor infractions such as jaywalking.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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