Edmonton council passes Churchill Square smoking ban

Sir Winston Churchill Square is now off-limits to smokers, but city officials say they don’t want to punish people who light up.

By-law officers to focus on 'voluntary compliance' instead of fines

A man smokes while reading a book in Sir Winston Churchill Square last fall. City council passed a bylaw Tuesday that will ban smoking in the public square. (CBC )

Sir Winston Churchill Square is now off-limits to smokers, but city officials say they don’t want to punish people who light up.

“We know it’s a gathering area, tourists from out of town and out of country come there, so they may not be aware of the regulations,” said David Aitkin, manager of community services.

City council passed a bylaw to ban smoking on the outdoor space by a 7-6 vote Tuesday.

Although the new rules state people caught smoking could face a $250 fine, Aitkin said the city will try to enforce the rules by simply asking smokers to butt out.

“Our experience is that people, when they see the signs, or they get asked to [stop smoking], Edmontonians comply,” he said.

Councillors who voted to ban smoking in Churchill Square                                                

  • Amarjeet Sohi
  • Michael Oshry
  • ​Andrew Knack
  • Scott McKeen
  • Mayor Don Iveson
  • Bev Esslinger
  • Michael Walters 

Councillors who voted against banning smoking in Churchill Square

  • Ben Henderson
  • Tony Caterina
  • Dave Loken
  • Bryan Anderson
  • Mike Nickel
  • Ed Gibbons

Coun. Amarjeet Sohi supported the smoking ban, but said he would like to see voluntary compliance and “humane” enforcement, particularly for vulnerable people and youth who use the square.

He said he doesn’t want those people fined and shuffled off the square for smoking.

Coun. Dave Loken countered Sohi's point saying that will make for an awkward situation for by-law officers, who will be operating in a 'grey area.' Loken voted against the ban.

The city’s community standards department will report back if additional officers are needed to enforce the by-law. As it stands, there are no plans to step up enforcement.

Coun. Ben Henderson also voted against the smoking ban. He said the square was one of the few places where people could smoke without bothering other people.

“We’re going to push them onto the sidewalks where non-smokers will be forced to walk by,” he said.

But Les Hagen, with Action on Smoking and Health, said he doesn’t think the ban goes far enough.

We think that the city should extend this to other public facilities and amenities as well, including Fort Edmonton, the Valley Zoo,” Hagen said.

Back in October, when the issue was before a council committee, Coun. Michael Oshry asked administration for more information about banning smoking at all city-owned outdoor facilities.

Any further smoking bans will have to be debated by city council.

The Churchill Square ban becomes official on April 15th.

The man who the public square is named after, former U.K Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was an avid smoker often photographed smoking his iconic cigar.

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