A new report by Vernon city administration is recommending city council does not move forward with a controversial plan to ban shopping carts on public property.
City council will be considering the controversial proposal and reviewing the staff report at their meeting on Tuesday.
The staff recommendation comes after the city received letters from both the Pivot Legal Society and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association that were deeply critical of the proposal, arguing that it would contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Any policy or bylaw that presumptively treats the possessions of homeless people as garbage or prohibits their ability to transport and safeguard their possessions violates standards of basic human dignity and further puts the security of the person in peril,” wrote Pivot Legal Society staff lawyer Noah Quastel in a letter to city council.
In his report to council, Geoff Gaucher, manager of protective services for the city, wrote: “Administration does not support banning of shopping carts based on the legal challenges and potential infringement on person’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Staff are recommending that council instead consider the results of consultation with social agencies and businesses on “recovery, disposal, theft protection and potential fines for the regulation of shopping carts in the City of Vernon.”
The proposed shopping cart ban comes out of a safety task force recommendation that “council ban commercial shopping carts on public property within the Business Improvement Area.”
It was among five recommendations the task force made about shopping carts, reasoning that the carts “obstruct pedestrians, obstruct public use of benches and add to a sense of urban decay.”
However, on July 23, the majority of council decided to go one step further and support moving toward a ban on shopping carts on public property citywide.
The move touched off considerable public debate.
Coun. Brian Quiring originally supported a ban, saying in an interview with Global News: “I’m of the belief that when you allow people to take one, two or three shopping carts and fill it with all of their belongings they have the potential then to set up a camp somewhere and not access a shelter. I’m of the hope that by requiring people to have limited belongings or possessions, that that will encourage them to get into a shelter where they can access services.”
He later changed his mind, issuing a press release about his stance on the controversial ban.
“On reflection, I believe the proposal for a citywide ban on shopping carts in public places will not lead to the solution that we desire. I believe banning shopping carts will only serve to further deteriorate the situation of the street-entrenched population and possibly push them to desperation,” Quiring wrote in an Aug. 23 statement to media.
The proposed ban also sparked an online fundraiser that collected over $1,000 to buy wagons for Vernon’s homeless population.