PANHANDLING BILLS PROGRESS
The BC Liberals gave backbencher Lorne Mayencourt a boost earlier this month when they adopted his contentious anti-panhandling private members bills and re-introduced them as their own. Mayencourt first introduced his Safe Streets and Trespass to Property Acts in May. The first bill sought to outlaw “aggressive” panhandling, including approaching people for money on the street, at bank machines, in cars, at pay phones and at bus stops. The second reiterated that it’s an offence for people to enter private premises without permission and tried to toughen the legislation. Both bills generated a lot of response, some for, some against. Both the president of the Davie Village Business Improvement Association and the head of the Village’s community policing centre condemned the bills’ law-and-order approach to street people; the BC Civil Liberties Association came out opposed, as well.
Though attorney general Geoff Plant was reportedly lukewarm on the bills at first, he has since warmed up to the subject. He introduced a revamped version of the Safe Streets Act, re-written in more fluent legalese, Oct 7. While the new version is somewhat more specific about what constitutes “solicitation in an aggressive manner” (where a reasonable person would be concerned for their safety when approached by someone soliciting something of value), it’s still silent on penalty specifics. Such details, Plant told reporters, can be drafted by cabinet order after the bill is passed. NDP MLA Jenny Kwan delayed the bill’s final passage Oct 25, when she unsuccessfully tried to add funding for social services to some portion of it. The legislature is expected to pass the bill Oct 26, as Xtra West goes to press.
Meanwhile, Plant also quietly re-introduced and passed a second bill to amend the existing Trespass to Property Act, Oct 7. Based on Mayencourt’s proposals, the amendments make it an offence simply to enter private property without permission (up from being found inside), engage in any prohibited activity on the premises, and stay or return once one has been told to leave. It also says trespassers must give their name and address to any representative of the premises, or other authorized person, when asked, and may be ordered to pay for any damages they cause to the property-or losses suffered by their presence. The trespass bill passed its third and final reading Oct 21.
Gay education activist James Chamberlain says he’s really pleased with the turnout and response he received from this year’s queer-friendly schools conference, Oct 22. About 100 adults and 50 youth attended the annual conference, he says, and participated in a wider-than-usual array of workshops. Among the most popular workshops of the day: addressing trans issues in school; lobbying local schools to create gay-friendly policies; dealing with homophobic name-calling; and bringing in peer-led Pridespeaks. As for next year, some students have already started their workshop wish lists, asking for one on how to come out at school and another on how to talk to parents about anti-homophobia education. This year’s conference was co-organized by the gay and lesbian educators of BC, the queer advisory committee of the Vancouver school board and some local queer, queer-friendly and Gay-Straight Alliance youth groups.
PANHANDLING BILLS PROGRESS