By Mike Archer. What kind of legal advice is the City of Abbotsford getting? It is well worth asking the question because the advice the City of Abbotsford is getting is the advice which is either putting at risk or protecting the citizens and taxpayers of Abbotsford from the legal penalties and costs which flow from any successful lawsuits against us.
This is anything but a moot point.
Editor’s Note: This column was originally published on July 9, 2013. It has been updated to include the latest in the growing number of lawsuits against the City and includes reference to the Drug War Survivors peaceful protest in Jubilee Park.
What is a community to understand about the meaning of the law if its municipal government disregards or disobeys the law?
Put more simply; why would citizens bother obeying the law if their government and police won’t? Without putting too fine a point on it, it really is kind of ground zero when it comes to government … of any kind. We expect those who make the law to abide by it.With notice given this week of two more lawsuits against the City and the APD by the Pivot Legal Society, Mayor Banman and council have to openly and publicly acknowledge the fact that a large and growing number of citizens are relying on the courts in an effort to have the City and its police force stop breaking the law.
Not only has the City of Abbotsford shown an inability to understand or stay within the confines of its own legal jurisdiction, but the number of lawsuits that have resulted from more than a decade of mismanagement at the City of Abbotsford is mounting with every passing week. There are more on the way.
With the peaceful protest by the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) growing larger every week, and organizer Barry Shantz’s stated objective of not leaving the park until the City negotiates with the DWS over their civil rights, Banman can’t sing his way out of this one. He’s going to have to come to terms with Shantz and the threat he represents to Banman’s tenure as Mayor.In an effort to backtrack and undo some of the political damage from his earlier comments about the need for homeless people to demonstrate acceptable moral and civic values if they are to expect their basic human rights to be adhered to by his city, Banman has reached out and latched onto the proposal being championed by Jeff Gruban of theAbbotsford Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists and Ward Draper of The 5 and 2 Ministries to build a homeless village on private land near the center of old Abbotsford but not downtown, which, if it succeeds, will provide a solution for a great number of the homeless who currently have nowhere to go in Abbotsford.
Banman is less interested in talking to the DWS in Jubilee Park because there is no political benefit to his doing so. Other, of course, than the possibility of playing a leadership role in getting his city out from under a large and growing legal threat which is likely to begin gaining national attention as it drags on.
Drug addicts don’t usually vote and in Abbotsford there aren’t many voters who would support a politician who was on their side so Banman, who is facing an uphill battle if he intends to run for mayor again, is likely to seek to split the homeless into two groups: one which he will support – those working diligently to provide a solution for those who don’t suffer from drug addiction and one which he will attempt to demonize – those who suffer from drug addiction and are suing the City and its police force for their civil rights.
Banman is most likely to attempt to resurrect his failing political career by kicking the DWS to the curb. Thanks to the despicable acts of his minions in poisoning the homeless over by the Sally Ann (most of whom were DWS members) he can’t send in his cops right now.
He still has to deal with the growing number of lawsuits his administration is facing and if he thinks the national media attention we received for poisoning homeless people was glaring, wait until the court cases and civil rights complaint go ahead. There will be no political spin to help him or the City then.
A Long History Of Not Understanding The Law
At it’s most tame and mundane the seeming inability of the City to stay within its jurisdiction is evidenced by the dangerous but ultimately pointless and meaningless grandstanding of Patricia Ross who sponsored a potentially illegal, ultra vires and racist bylaw against restaurants which serve a perfectly legal source of protein – shark fin soup – because of the cruel and inhumane way in which the fins are removed from the sharks.
The fact her friends and neighbours may now be at risk of the legal consequences of her actions may or may not have entered into her posturing.
None of the Chinese restaurants or ethnic organizations in Abbotsford which would have every right to commence legal proceedings against the people of Abbotsford have decided to sue the City over Patricia’s actions, possibly because the adverse publicity her actions have already brought to their legal and honest businesses would only be further damaged by fighting the City.
Other than the racist part of Patricia’s ultra vires bylaw, her legendary battles with paper tigers are a side show when compared to the more serious legal issues raised by Councillor Simon Gibson’s relentless pursuit of Abbotsford’s drug addicts and his own ultra vires campaign to deny them health care through Abbotsford’s ‘Harm reduction Bylaw’.
On his way to his new job as an MLA in Victoria Simon is leaving behind a legal trail of his own. His Harm Reduction Bylaw is being challenged in court by the Pivot Legal Society and, while it has in no way been tied to the despicable Abbotsford Chicken Manure Homeless Incident, originally revealed by Abbotsford Today and then covered worldwide, it nonetheless fits a pattern in Abbotsford of dealing with the poor by deliberately trying to either poison them, chase them out of town or allow them to die without health care. Several pending lawsuits appear set to challenge those views espoused by our City council and administration.
Unless the City of Abbotsford develops a more caring, humanitarian, legal and morally defensible manner of dealing with poor people it will continue to face a growing number of serious legal, political and moral challenges.
We simply can no longer go on acting this way. It is unbecoming of a community which likes to think of itself as a legitimate member of a civilized society.
What Happens To A City Which Repeatedly Ignores The Law
The City is now also facing the possibility of another law suit from the Pivot Legal Society on behalf of the homeless people who were attacked and poisoned by City workers with chicken feces for the transgression of not having a mortgage or rental agreement.
What kind of people make home ownership a requirement for humane and decent treatment? Apparently, we do. The role played by the Abbotsford Salvation Army in the poisoning of homeless people, while it may never be completely understood or publicized, is a black mark neither the Army nor the City it claims to serve will soon live down.
What we do know is that the Sally Ann did participate in a meeting with City officials at which the idea of spreading chicken feces was discussed.
If, at that meeting, they did not voice the most strident and vigorous of objections to the plan then there is very little the community of Abbotsford and the Salvation Army have to say to one another anymore and a pretty fundamental understanding of the meaning of human dignity no longer exists between us.
The biggest legal white elephant in the City of Abbotsford’s living room is, of course, George Peary’s Deal and his now infamous “So Sue Me” challenge to those citizens who thought their City should be abiding by the law, following the letter and the spirit of the law as enunciated in the Municipal Charter, and not subsidizing private businesses with taxpayer funds over a ten year period, no matter what clever means it had found to do so.
The City of Maple Ridge’s lengthy, expensive and failed defence of a legal challenge on a similar issue should have served as an example to George but he preferred to call those who questioned his decision names and challenge them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting him in court.
Abbotsford has, so far, been spared the legal costs of defending against MLA and former criminologist Darryl Plecas’ advice to Lower Mainland municipalities that they could contravene or at least sidestep Canada’s requirement for search warrants by placing electrical inspectors in front of the cops when barging into people’s homes with no legal authority.
Neither Surrey nor Mission have been so lucky. Surrey lost the case it defended against the BC Civil Liberties Association several years ago and the District of Mission is facing a class action suit of its decision to take Plecas’ advise.
The Potential Costs Of Defending The APD
The Abbotsford Police Department and the City of Abbotsford, not to mention other organizations and individuals within them may yet face a series of lawsuits which marijuana activist Tim Felger says he intends to launch claiming false arrest, entrapment and perhaps other crimes on the part of police in Abbotsford and Mission in their apparent campaign to shut him up and run him out of town over his views on the natural herb.
Given the low caliber of politicians we have had over the last decade or more and the long trail of legal troubles these people have left behind them, it is high time somebody at the City of Abbotsford made a commitment that, before they pass another bylaw, strike another committee, form another policy or decide on another procedure, they will agree not to break the law or act outside of their jurisdiction.
Though it might seem astounding to some that a child of a legislative body such as the Province of BC (for that is what the City of Abbotsford is) should actually be asked to assure it’s citizen shareholders that it will try not to break the law, the last decade of blithering incompetence and outright shame involved in the way this City has been managed, have exposed the citizens to a large and apparently growing potential for legal costs and responsibilities for the actions of our community leaders.
The entire political leadership of this City has to take responsibility for the manner it which it appears to have ignored, set aside and even broken the law in conducting the public’s business over the last decade. It is an abysmal record of bad governance, especially when added to the half billion dollar financial fiasco called Plan A.
It isn’t a track record we ought to repeat and the citizens are well within their right to demand such an assurance from those who put their wallets and reputations at risk by their actions and decisions, both at the council table and in the administrative offices of the City which, it gets painful to keep reminding them, belong to and will be paid for by the friends and neighbours – the citizens of Abbotsford.
Is it so much to ask that they obey the law while spending our money?