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A large group of protesters braved the cold Monday night to gather out front of City Hall in opposition of the new bylaw banning sleeping on sidewalks overnight.
The bylaw passed its fourth reading in today’s City Council meeting, which creates an immediate change from the current bylaw that allows sidewalks to be slept on between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m.
Many protesters criticized the decision by the city, arguing the new bylaw is a poor solution for the growing homeless problem in the downtown area.
“My motivation for being here is simply human rights,” said Gail Douglas.
“Basically, it’s just bullying people who are down and out and I think it’s a terrible way to treat people who are already at their lowest point.”
Many signed a petition against the proposed bylaw and protesters sat on the sidewalk in a symbolic gesture of support for the homeless.
“The city needs to work towards getting homeless people stabilized” noted Douglas.
“People need safety, food, shelter, you provide that and then these people on the streets can move towards a better life.”
The argument that handing out bylaw tickets to those who likely cannot pay them was a strong part of the protesters' rhetoric.
“"The by-law was passed but it should be looked at within the context of all of the items we passed today including the homelessness strategy,” said Kelowna City Councillor Ryan Donn.
“In January there will be an update, with sort-term measurables that were asked to be added today by council in an effort to better communicate what we are doing to support homelessness in Kelowna.”
In an online letter posted earlier this week Mayor Colin Basran defended the bylaw.
"I want to be abundantly clear that the City of Kelowna is not targeting people sleeping on our streets with the purpose of harassing or incarcerating our most vulnerable residents,” he said.
"The purpose of this bylaw is to prevent people from obstructing sidewalks and preventing accessibility for residents."
With the new bylaw in place, anyone obstructing sidewalks can expect to be stuck with a $50 fine.
Stay tuned to KelownaNow for updates on the protest and this story.
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