Vagrancy and drug use along the transit system will become municipal offenses as bylaw changes are passed

ByShannon J. Cortes

Jun 9, 2022

Edmonton bylaws and peace officers will have broader powers to evict people deemed to be causing safety issues for others on and around transit property, after city council agreed Wednesday to revise the city’s transit regulations.

Most city council members agreed on Wednesday to revise the transit passenger conduct bylaw so it will be an offense for people to stay on transit property for purposes other than using transit transit. common.

The amended bylaw will also make the use of illegal drugs on or around transit property a municipal offense, in addition to being a federal crime.

“Just hanging around the station when you’re not using public transit is another thing we try to avoid here,” said city manager André Corbould. “At this time, we cannot stop people from hanging around the station.”

In County Ward Dene. Aaron Paquette, the clause was similar to the previous vagrancy provision, which council agreed to remove from the bylaw last year.

The city was heavily criticized after law enforcement officers pulled homeless people from a light rail station in extremely cold weather in the winter of 2021.

The council agreed last summer to remove the vagrancy option.

“It just didn’t work and it wasn’t fair,” Paquette said of the vagrancy provision. “It was obviously very heavily focused on visible minorities as an enforcement target.”

Paquette argued that the existing regulation, before the amendments, already had clear wording that allowed peace officers to deal with people who posed a danger.

The legislation states that no one may “engage in conduct that can reasonably be expected to interfere with the safety or comfort of others” while on the transit property.

Ward Anirniq County Erin Rutherford made the same argument, suggesting that the existing bylaw authorized peace officers to deal with security matters.

City attorney Michelle Plouffe said the changes were intended to provide clarity.

The new clause states that no one may “improperly or unlawfully use, interfere with the intended use, or cause damage” to transit goods.

This includes staying on transit property while “engaging in behaviors or activities” other than transit.

“That, to me, is still very discretionary, I would say,” Rutherford said.

The city administration, she added, is already working on a response to a motion passed earlier this year, seeking to clarify the language of the bylaw.

Amendments adopted

The majority of the board agreed that the bylaw changes should go ahead. They passed with a vote of 9-3.

Councilors Michael Janz, Ashley Salvador and Rutherford voted against the changes. Paquette did not vote.

Several councilors cited continued and louder calls from the public for the city to address security concerns in recent months.

Ward pihesiwin County. Tim Cartmell does not believe that his constituents want people to be treated unfairly because they are in vulnerable situations.

“They want to see a measure of accountability back in the public realm — especially downtown, especially downtown transit hubs — so they feel safe,” Cartmell said.

Neighborhood Nakota Isga County. Andrew Knack voted in favor of the amended settlement, but flagged similar concerns as other councilors.

“There’s potential for this to be misused,” Knack said. “Hopefully over the next two and a half months, when this report comes back, we will have very detailed information on how this has been used.”

Province requires safety plan

Thursday marks the deadline for the City of Edmonton to submit a comprehensive security plan to Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro.

On May 26, Shandro used a ministerial power under Alberta’s Police Act to demand that the city take action against crime downtown and along the transit system.

The board approving the bylaw change on Wednesday “would likely send a signal that we take this issue very seriously,” Ward Sipiwiyiniwak Coun said. Sarah Hamilton.

Corbould believes that revising the transit by-law would help the city gain “favorable acceptance” of its public safety plan.

He added, however, that passing the amendments might not result in Shandro endorsing, supporting or accepting the plan.