Controversial anti-loitering bylaw rejected by Kenora, Ont., city council: ‘What a relief’

Two people protesting Kenora's proposed loitering bylaw. Kenora council voted against the bylaw this week. Submitted / Abbie Siroishka

A controversial bylaw proposed in Kenora, which opponents — including the Ontario Human Rights Commission — said would discriminate against homeless and Indigenous people, has been rejected by city councillors.

Council voted against the bylaw, which would have allowed officers to ticket people for spending extended periods of time on public property, by a tally of 6-1 Tuesday.

In a recorded vote, five councillors and Kenora’s mayor all voted against the bylaw. Councillor Chris Van Walleghem was the lone vote in favour.

Read more: Proposed $100 loitering tickets in Kenora discriminates against homeless: activists

The proposal had drawn sharp criticism from some residents, many of whom gathered at City Hall last week to protest, arguing the proposed law went against human rights.

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The vote was well received by the Kenora Fellowship Centre, a local group providing shelter and outreach for the city’s vulnerable populations, which had added its voice to those opposing the bylaw.

“What a relief,” the centre said in a post on its Facebook page after the vote.

“Thank you to everyone who raised their voice and took a stand.. thank you to Kenora City Council for holding the voice of the community who opposed the ByLaw as it deliberated this morning.”

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A draft bylaw posted on the city’s meeting agenda before Tuesday’s vote defined loitering as “to linger, hang out, travel idly, and includes to rest and to stand, sit or recline without a purpose relating to or any activity which is contrary to the property.”

Had it passed, those found violating the bylaw would have been subject to a $100 fine.

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Leading up to the vote, Kenora Chiefs Advisory, made up of the nine northwestern Ontario First Nations that surround the city, said the proposed bylaw would impact Indigenous people, including residents who have no fixed address.

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The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) weighed in as well, urging lawmakers to reject the bylaw in a letter sent to Kenora’s mayor and council Monday.

“The OHRC urges Kenora City Council to reject this by-law, which will likely have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable and homeless people in Kenora, the large majority of whom are Indigenous peoples,” reads the letter signed by OHRC executive director, Raj Dhir.

“Moreover, the by-law will not solve the homelessness crisis or other social issues facing Kenora.”

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