Mayor Banman’s Task Force on Homelessness has come under fire for a number of reasons of late. Most recently it was criticized for meeting on the very day that a large number of homeless men and women were being evacuated from BC Hydro lands across from the Salvation Army along Gladys Avenue.
Cover: Pastor Ward Draper. Bas Stevens photo.
Other issues have come up for which the committee has been criticized including the fact that the committee is almost entirely made up of people and organizations who have stood by for over a decade watching the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis grow unabated, or the almost total the lack of representation from the homeless community.
The Task Force has decided to put things like the Abby Digs Valley Road proposal off until next year and has decided to recommend the hiring of a Homeless Coordinator (~ $100,000), the making of a video (~$20,000), and a study, presumably by those who have failed to solve the problem despite massive amounts of provincial and muncipal funds having been spent on the issue (~$20,000).
This week we were asked it was either legal or appropriate for the Task Force, which is a committee of Council, to have a closed meeting as they did last Thursday.
We were sent links to the appropriate sections of the community charter which govern secret or closed meetings (below) and we asked City Hall about the issue.
Specifically we asked Mayor Banman, Councillor Ross, Councillor Smith and Deputy City Manager Jake Rudolph whether or not, given what the community charter says, it was appropriate for the Task Force to meet behind closed doors.
Mayor Banman replied and explained he was deferring to Mr. Rudolph who would respond on behalf of Council. Councillor Ross, as c-chair of the Task Force, was kind enough to respond as was Mr. Rudolph.
Mr. Smith, who might bear more responsibility than any other public official for the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis, either doesn’t give a damn or doesn’t read his emails.
The City’s Policy and The Community Charter
1) Policy No.100-1-21 Committee Protocol Sec. 17.1 states:
All meetings of Council committees are open to the public and no person shall be excluded except for improper conduct, or where the committee is considering an item where, in accordance with Section 90 of the Community Charter, the exclusion of the public is permitted. [SOURCE:
2) Community Charter Section 90(1) has 15 criteria for making a meeting in camera. http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/LOC/complete/statreg/–%20C%20–/41_Community%20Charter%20[SBC%202003]%20c.%2026/00_Act/03026_04.xml#section90
Responses from Councillor Ross and Mr Rudolph
Councillor Patricia Ross
“Thanks for allowing the opportunity to clarify. First, to the criticism of the timing of the Homeless Task Force having a meeting on the same day of the eviction, as some have seen it as poor timing to conflict on that day and thinking task force members should have been at the eviction helping the homeless. I do apologize for the timing and any anxiety that has caused, but want folks to know that it was not intentional. It was a date chosen at the end of a prior meeting when we realized we would need an additional meeting the following week. Everyone pulled out their calendars and it was the only time most would be available. Clearly, if it was the intention to conflict with the eviction timing, we would not have chosen 3:00 in the afternoon because most of the eviction activity would be over by then, as it started early in the morning. In actuality, the timing did allow task force members to attend the eviction for most of the day and reports that none attended are incorrect. There were some members there. I can’t speak for the others who did not, but will explain my reasons for not being there. My Mother was receiving an award from the RCMP that day and it was very important to her that I be there with her.”
“As for that particular meeting being closed, yes, there are rules to go by as you note and this was vetted and implemented with the assistance of the city clerk. All of our meetings to date except for this one have been open and welcoming to all and it is the sincere desire of task force members to continue to have open meetings, except to discuss items that should be in closed.
“In addition, the task force is going out to visit with service providers and the homeless themselves, rather than only expecting people to come to these meetings.”
“I can assure you the Closed meeting was established according to City policy as subject matter pertained to issues authorized under the Charter. The Task Force meeting was arranged according to the availability of the volunteers who sit on the committee. It commenced at 3:00 PM and had very little if any overlap with activities on Gladys Avenue earlier in the day. The Task Force has had no involvement with the Gladys Avenue issue and their mandate is to seek sustainable solutions to address homelessness .”
“The three elements I went over with the City Clerk were essentially land, labour and law, issues. For example, there are issues around the subject of a homeless coordinator (which you have mentioned in previous emails) which require discretion. I can have the Clerk’s Department be very specific if you like but the concept was to anticipate topics which might come up that fall under the category of appropriate for Closed.”
What Do You Think?Is anticipating topics which might come up that fall under the category of appropriate for a closed meeting at some later date something that falls within either the spirit or the letter of the City’s policy or that of the Community Charter?
Is this how you expect decisions about how your money is spent to be made? Is this what you expected of the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness?
Is it really an acceptable reading of the law to say that if staff suspect there may be a possibility that at a later date a topic which is addressed today might be the subject of somebody’s desire/need/wish to go into a closed/secret meeting they can shut the public out of today’s meeting?
Pastor Ward Draper told us he went over to speak to the Task Force and tell them that, if they wanted to learn something about the reality faced by the homeless men and women of Abbotsford they should get off their asses and come down to Gladys Avenue and participate in the actual results of their decades old policies.
Draper was asked to leave.
“They had an ideal opportunity to learn about the victims of their policies and their inability to deal with this issue. They passed it up and asked me to leave,” Draper told Today.
Tell us what you think. Use the comments box below or send us an email.