City council votes to amend Saskatoon panhandling bylaw

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Saskatoon narrowly passes changes to the city’s panhandling bylaw
WATCH ABOVE: Saskatoon city council narrowly passed changes to the panhandling bylaw Monday. The measures will prohibit panhandling within eight metres of a cinema’s doorway and around anyone actively using a pay station. Joel Senick reports – Dec 13, 2016

Saskatoon city council narrowly voted Monday to amend the city’s panhandling bylaw in an effort to deter those who are aggressive or coercive in the act.

“There isn’t a business owner that I represent that I am aware of that has an issue with anyone sitting with a cup or hat in front of them,” Randy Pshebylo, the Riversdale Business District executive director, told reporters at city hall on Monday.

“This is strictly focused on dealing with that movement, following, bumping, pushing, blocking my way of walking.”

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Pshebylo sits on the Street Activity Steering Committee, which sent a two-part recommendation to city council. The first measure prohibits panhandling within eight metres of a cinema or theatre doorway and passed by a 6 to 5 vote.

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The second measure would have prohibited panhandling within two metres of any public parking pay station, but it was amended to instead ban the act around those actively using and waiting to use the stations. The amended request also passed by a 6-5 vote.

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City councillors who voiced concerns against the idea of the new buffer zones said the measures could unreasonably punish people for activities that are legal and disparage those who are less fortunate.

Ward 6 Coun. Cynthia Block voted in favour of both measures. She said it was a way for her to strike a balance between protecting local businesses and the right to panhandle.

“I guess as someone who is representing a ward that I think has an intense interest on both side, the push and pull I hear loud and clear on both sides,” Block said after Monday’s council meeting.

“I do understand the arguments on both sides and felt that it was important that both were supported.”

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Ward 1 Coun. Darren Hill disagreed that the amended measure amounted to a balanced approach. He voted in favour of banning panhandling around cinemas, but against the re-worded pay station request.

Hill said terms like “active user” were ambiguous and “if you simply had a buffer, you have created that two-metre zone, where you can’t panhandle within that area.”

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“If that bylaw is implemented, anybody can sit at a pay station and panhandle,” Hill told reporters after the meeting.

“They just need to stop asking for money as soon as somebody walks up to push a button or stars to queue up; what those definitions are, we don’t know yet.”

The city solicitor will now prepare the amended bylaw and present it for final consideration at a future council meeting.

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