By Mike Archer. It has been two weeks since Mayor Bruce Banman stepped in to kill the low-barrier ACS/BCHousing proposal for 20 homeless men.
By some accounts, the blowback from the public at Banman as well as councillors Bill MacGregor, Les Barkman and John Smith over their decision to favour the business interests of the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) over those of the homeless has been tremendous.
A rally was organized at City Hall on February 24, attended by councillors Henry Braun, Dave Loewen, Patricia Ross and Bill MacGregor, where all three councillors other than MacGregor signed a petition supporting the rights of the homeless in Abbotsford.
It has since been revealed by Abbotsford Today that there was a piece of property closer to the downtown core which the ADBA was prepared to accept which the City could not afford to approve because of its financial situation.
Councilor John Smith, who bears more responsibility than any other councillor for both the City’s and the Abbotsford Police Department’s (APD) policy on homelessness and for the City of Abbotsford’s financial state, is reported to be seeking a way to put off the decision to refuse $15.3 million for a low-barrier housing project while taking no responsibility for the fact that, contrary to the apparent intent of his plans, the number of homeless people on the street and living in downtown Abbotsford has risen and achieved a crisis point.
All Smith and his ally against the homeless – downtown property owner Bob Bos – have managed to achieved after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of police time and funds is a move of about 50 metres of the Abbotsford homeless population from the old Fraser Valley Inn across the railway tracks to the new MCC Dignity Village encampment on Gladys Avenue.
In an email sent to Smith Sunday, City Manager George Murray explains what the mechanism would be in order to change his and council’s decision to turn down the money for the ACS/BC Housing proposal.
“Council can pass a resolution to reconsider the reading of the Bylaw that was defeated without calling for a new Public Hearing. This process would be extremely risky, as Council has received new information and someone challenging the decision could likely be successful.
“Council could take a less risky path by passing a resolution that the “ACS Rezoning matter” be reconsidered by directing staff to call for a new Public Hearing and for staff to follow all procedural requirements (Advertising in Newspapers, Notices to those within 100 metres, etc) of the Local Government Act as soon as possible.”
Whether this indicates Smith has felt so much political pressure he intends to switch his allegiance, or whether it indicates he wants to be able to argue that to reconsider council’s decision would be too complicated will only be revealed at Monday night’s council meeting.
Today’s council meeting is the last scheduled meeting prior to the expiry of the 30 day grace period during which the Mayor has the right/ability to re-introduce the issue. Many who favour a solution to homelessness in Abbotsford are hoping Banman has felt the pressure as well and according to various posts on Facebook, a number of citizens who support solutions to the Abbotsford Homelessness Crisis intend to show up at council this evening to demonstrate their support for the ACS/BC Housing proposal one more time.
For his part, Banman seems to favour a much older solution to housing the homeless. Based on his statements at the UFV screening of the ‘Chicken Manure Incident’ documentary by Kevin Miller, he intends to do his best to have those who will not be allowed into Abbotsford’s high-barrier shelters (we have no low-barrier shelters):
“One of the reasons why homeless … we have the problem is because back in the day we used to do things like it was a never –ending prison sentence.
We got to use shock therapy, sterilization, frontal lobotomies. We behaved poorly and the Supreme Court of Canada said the right to freedom is more important than their right to be healthy.
“The only time we lock people up is when they actually become a danger to others not themselves. I think, as a nation, we need to revise that. There’s something inherently wrong that we can’t put someone away for their own good.”