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VANDU's ticket blitz demands out of city's jurisdiction: Jang

VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users disrupted yesterday’s City Council meeting, demanding the city retract tickets handed out in last winter’s “ticketing blitz” on the Downtown Eastside. It's a demand that's impossible for the city to fulfill, city councillors say.

“We can not cancel tickets. It’s not in our mandate, we’re not allowed to. That’s what we kept trying to explain,” councillor Kerry Jang told The Tyee.

VANDU, along with other DTES advocacy groups have been campaigning to have the tickets, numbering over 1000, retracted for over a month. In June, they attended the Police Board meeting, asking the board to retract the tickets. They were informed in a letter that the tickets would have to be disputed in the courts as the Police Board has no jurisdiction to cancel tickets.

Not satisfied with that decision, VANDU appeared at yesterday’s city council meeting with banners, demanding the council hear their complaints. As the council does not hear speakers, and VANDU was not on the meeting’s agenda, councillors Kerry Jang, Andrea Reimer, and Geoff Meggs stepped outside the meeting to speak with the group.

Jang said that while the city has complete jurisdiction over fines handed out for certain things, such as licensing, these are governed under a different act than violations such as the jaywalking, panhandling, and illegal vending tickets that VANDU is disputing.

“This is very different from a violation ticket. But they’re not seeing that, they’re saying it’s the same thing because the city gave it. But it’s not. They’re comparing apples to oranges,” Jang said.

What the city does need to do, however, is clarify the process by which receivers of the tickets can dispute them in court, Jang said.

Once a ticket is taken to court, judges have great leeway over how the case is dealt with. They can find someone guilty of the violation, but not demand they pay the fine due to their financial circumstances, for instance.

Today the city is looking to outline the process and put it together in a way that everyone will understand it, to make it easier for ticket blitz receivers to make their way through the process.

“Before they enter the courts they need to understand how the process works,” said Jang, adding that “no one is above the law, it applies equally to everyone.”

VANDU was not available for comment in time for this article.

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee

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