Thank you to the many allies from across the country and beyond who rallied to help us defeat the proposed anti-homeless bylaws!
Next steps: we have filed an FOI with the city for communications related to the original motion.
Once those documents are reviewed, we will determine next steps. We are also monitoring council closely as trust has been eroded. Complete the connect form to be added to our mailing list for future updates and calls to action.
City of Barrie Anti-Homeless Motion & Bylaws - May/June 2023
On May 17, 2023, Barrie City Council passed a direct motion without notice including a number of options for the CAO to take to address homelessness in Barrie. Some were welcomed by people with living experience of homelessness and the agencies that support them. Some were considered a wild infringement of human rights, most notably instructions to pursue bylaws that would prohibit not only the use of tents and tarps in public spaces, but also handing out food, groceries, and other survival items to people experiencing homelessness.
BHHJN organized a rally for the following week at council, meeting in front of city hall first, then marching in to council chambers. But council held an 8-minute meeting and were adjourned by the time the crowd reached chambers.
The public was advised that changes to bylaws would have to come back to council, and there was also the promise of a public meeting. With council adjourning for the summer in just six weeks, it seemed unlikely that any bylaw changes would be made before the fall.
However, late on Sunday, June 18th, bylaw changes were added to the June 21th council meeting agenda that had already been posted days earlier. There was no staff report, and the items did not come through Committee of the Whole, so there was also no opportunity for the public to speak to the bylaw changes in the meeting. (This column explains the procedural piece, the choices made, and how they backfired.) It appeared that normal processes were being subverted to avoid public input on Bill 67 and 68.
As explained in BHHJN's Letter to the Editor, Bill 68 amended a nuisance bylaw from 2004 to reverse the section that says that items can be given away by non-profits to instead make it illegal for anyone to give away “food, clothing, tents, tarps or other similar item used as a shelter, to assist with sleeping or protection from the elements.”
Fines were set at up to an astonishing $100,000, and the bylaw will be enforceable immediately if passed as written during Wednesday’s meeting. Additional amendments presented in Bill 67 expand the current ban on tents and sunshades at the waterfront to cover the whole city.
BHHJN members raised the alarm and advocates across the country rallied for an impressive and united call to the City of Barrie to withdraw the proposed bylaw changes. Ryan's Hope organized a protest in front of city hall, with tents and people sleeping on site from Monday until after the Wednesday city council meeting. Letters to council poured in from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and The Shift, and legal clinics, among others. The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness released a statement set up a one-click letter to mobilize advocates across their network leading to councillors receiving over 20,000 emails in the 24 hours leading up to the vote.
BHHJN and our many allies filled council chambers on June 21st, where council announced that the Busby Centre had agreed to stop distributing survival items from their outreach van on the waterfront, so council no longer deemed the bylaw changes necessary, despite this issue never being raised publicly in the multiple examples councillors gave for the reasons the bylaws were needed. Mayor Nuttall also explained to those gathered in the chambers that the bylaws were being referred back to staff for modernization as they were outdated and already prohibited helping others. However, a review of Section 7 of Bylaw 2004-142 proves this is not true, as noted by Global News reporter Sawyer Bogdan.
Thanks to BHHJN member Brandon for compiling this list of media coverage of the Anti-Homeless Motion and Bylaws.
As of Sept 16, 2022
Barrie Chapter of SCATEH
Collier Street United Church Social Action Task Force
Elizabeth Fry Society
Grace United Church
John Howard Simcoe Muskoka
Redwood Park Communities
Simcoe-Barrie Bethune Club
Alba C Abray
Dr Amy Pauley
Dr. Caroline Johnston
Dr. John McLean
Jennifer van Gennip
L. Rina Krans
Laura M Johnston
Margaret A Paradis
Mary Anne Denny-Lusk
Peter C Beckett
Rev Bill Welch
Rev Cannon Simon Bell
Rev Susan Snelling
Rev. George Moore
Rev. Harry Bierman
Rev. Jack Vos
Rev. Keith Boyer
Rev. Philip Cable
Rev. Susan Eagle