British Columbia

Vernon, B.C., abandons shopping cart ban as way to discourage homelessness

City council voted to quash a proposed shopping cart ban after receiving criticism from homeless advocates suggesting such a ban would violate Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Critics argued ban would likely violate Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms

City lawyers advised council to not proceed with a shopping cart ban because of the potential of court challenges from homeless advocates which would be a financial burden on the city. (David Horemans/CBC)

Vernon city council has voted to quash a proposed shopping cart ban after receiving criticism from homeless advocates who suggested the ban would violate Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The mayor and councillors voted in favour of a staff recommendation to not proceed with a bylaw that would have banned shopping carts on public property in the city.

"The original solution was knee-jerk, heavy-handed," Coun. Brian Quiring said Tuesday at a council meeting.

"In my opinion, it's not the right idea for the homeless people."

Quiring was one of two councillors on a city task force that recommended the shopping cart ban as one of more than 40 measures to deal with a perceived sense of lawlessness and deterioration in Vernon's downtown core.

In July, council adopted five of the recommendations, including the shopping cart ban  — a move that prompted criticism from homeless advocates across the province.

'Blatantly discriminatory'

In a letter from the B.C. Civil Liberties Society, lawyer Meghan McDermott called the proposed ban "blatantly discriminatory" against Vernon's homeless population and suggested it would not survive a constitutional challenge.

Vancouver's Pivot Legal Society sent a letter to council suggesting the shopping cart ban would violate B.C.'s Human Rights Code, and Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A letter from the city's legal department also recommended the city not proceed with the ban, suggesting the cost to defend legal challenges to the ban would be a large financial burden.

In council chambers on Tuesday, the mayor and councillors voted 5-1 in favour of scrapping the shopping cart ban.

'Bring it on'

The lone opposing vote came from Coun. Scott Anderson.

"I am concerned that we are actually being governed by interest groups here," Anderson said.

"From a political standpoint, my response here is, 'Just bring it on. You are not in charge of the city. We are. We need to take steps to clean up the problem. If this is one of those steps, that is not up to you, it is up to us.'"

The city is now looking at other ways of dealing with the issue of shopping carts.

City staff are meeting with companies that own shopping carts in Vernon, hoping to come up with solutions to help the businesses retain and reclaim carts that go missing and end up being used on the streets.

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Brady Strachan

CBC Reporter

Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan