By Mike Archer. When governments deliberately poison their own citizens it makes headlines. On the international stage it brings threats of military action and causes stock markets to tremble. In Abbotsford it simply brings a continuation of the bankrupt policy, which led to the poisoning in the first place.
Abbotsford’s Mayor Bruce Banman’s attempt to rationalize his City’s decision to remove homeless people from the camp they were occupying on Gladys Avenue on the basis of public health, without even alluding to the fact they had nowhere healthy to go, demonstrates just how lost both he and his administration are on this issue.
He didn’t even acknowledge the sad irony that, once they were forced to leave they moved less than a hundred feet down the street to the Honey Tree – the very spot across from the Salvation Army, at which they were poisoned with chicken feces by the City, with the agreement of the Sally Ann, on June 4th this year.
It would be comical if it weren’t so terribly sadistic and cruel. The homeless citizens of Abbotsford have been victimized like few other groups of Abbotsford citizens. There are homeless problems in every city and there have been bad examples of public policy towards them all over the world.
Beginning a long process towards obeying the law
There are, however, few examples in modern Canadian history of such intellectually lazy policy or blatant disregard for the law or basic human rights as the City of Abbotsford, its political leaders, departments and police force have demonstrated. The lawsuits and the Human Rights Tribunal challenge brought by the Pivot Legal Society against the City of Abbotsford may just be the beginning in a long process of instructing Abbotsford’s civic leaders what the law does and doesn’t entitle them to do.
When former Mayor George Peary signed an agreement to guarantee that Abbotsford taxpayers would ensure the Calgary Flames and the local ownership group of the Abbotsford Heat would not lose money for ten years, despite the fact that the Municipal Charter specifically prohibits such a guarantee, he told worried citizens they were welcome to sue the City if they were so concerned.
In time someone will.
When faced with the mounting financial mess created by his commitment and the full brunt of Councillor John Smith’s Plan A fiasco, George Peary and the City of Abbotsford, with the help of both of its newspapers, told citizens the City desperately needed to spend $300,000,000 on a new water supply or face an end to economic development.
It simply wasn’t true and the information was in the City’s possession months before the false statements were made during an election and public referendum on the topic.
Repeatedly exceeding its legal authority
In 2008, when City Councillors John Smith and Bruce Beck, together with then-President of the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) Bob Bos tried to have Pastor Christoph Reiners of the Peace Lutheran Church stop feeding the homeless – a practice in which the Church had been engaged for years – they were exceeding their legal authority.
When Smith told the CBC that the City’s bylaw department and police department were about to begin taking action against the homeless – he was exceeding his legal authority.
When the City of Abbotsford passed its infamous ‘Anti Harm Reduction Bylaw’, championed by Councillor and provincial MLA Simon Gibson, which interferes with the ability of the Fraser Health Authority (FHA) to deliver lifesaving healthcare to addicts in Abbotsford – it exceeded its legal authority.
Politicians, bureaucrats and business people are simply not empowered under any existing Canadian legislation to sic the cops on citizens, have the bylaw department poison them, keep certain groups of citizens from receiving healthcare or provide financial guarantees to businesses with taxpayers’ money.
Such a cavalier attitude towards financial and legal responsibilities of public officials is a dangerous habit and one which civic officials and politicians in Abbotsford have demonstrated all too often over the last decade.
A city our of control
Abbotsford is a City that is out of control. Not only is its financial situation so fragile it is forced to continually borrow money from itself to pay itself back in order to balance its books, it is facing a mounting number of lawsuits and challenges to its authority from citizens who want nothing more than to have the City obey the law.
The long stretch of ultra vires, bylaws, policies and actions taken by civic officials in Abbotsford may yet come to an end as all of the legal challenges work their way through the system and the legal bills and rulings against the City begin to pile up.
Until that happens we are left with a mayor and council who seem to have neither any idea what they are doing nor any understanding of what they are and are not allowed to do according to the Canadian Constitution, the Canadian Criminal Code or the BC Municipal Charter.
If the citizens of Abbotsford are legally and financially responsible for the reckless commitments, promises, decisions, policies and actions of their municipal government, their police force and their political leaders, then the citizens of Abbotsford had better pay a lot closer attention to what is being done and decided on their behalf, and in their name.