Whitehorse pulls proposed anti-bullying bylaw amid concerns

The Yukon Human Rights Commission said similar bylaws in other jurisdictions have been abused by officials.

Yukon Human Rights Commission said similar bylaws elsewhere have been abused by officials

The city says users and staff at civic facilities like the Canada Games Centre need to be protected from bullies. (George Maratos/CBC)

Whitehorse city council has withdrawn a proposed anti-bullying bylaw that some criticized as open to abuse by authorities.

A draft of the bylaw was presented to city council last month. Officials said it would give city staff tools to deal with bad behaviour in city facilities such the Canada Games Centre, and transit buses.

The Whitehorse council voted Monday to drop its anti-bullying bylaw while staff review it. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Those tools included the ability to ask people for proof of identification, issue fines, or remove people from city buildings.

The bylaw defined "bullying" as behaviour intended or known to cause "fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other forms of harm to another person's feelings, self-esteem or reputation."

Dan Curtis, the mayor of Whitehorse, says opponents of the bylaw have wrong ideas about what it's about. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

It also included making "objectionable or inappropriate comments," and "creating a negative environment for another person."

The draft bylaw raised concerns for the Yukon Human Rights Commission. It sent a letter to city council, saying similar bylaws have been used in other jurisdictions to unfairly target people.

Mayor Dan Curtis said some of those concerns came out of nowhere.

"There's a potential of carding and looking at, like, I don't understand that — it almost seems opposite of what we're trying to do," said Curtis.

Councillor Rob Fendrick says the city should not give up on finding a solution for bad behaviour at city facilities. (submitted)

"We're trying to protect everyone, but it was kind of construed we'd be looking at being prejudiced, if you will, which is the absolute misconception of what the intent was," he said.

"So it was a bit of a surprise, and it felt like it went from zero to 60. But that's why we put a complete halt on it, to ensure that everyone is on the same page and ensure we're not doing anything that's inappropriate." 

Something must be done, says councillor

There were mixed feelings among councilors, about the pulling the bylaw.

Councillor Rob Fendrick voted to do that, but added that something has to be done about bad behaviour.

"Maybe this is a blunt instrument, so I look forward to being educated on what might be more appropriate. In the final analysis, I would like to see bullying mitigated," said Fendrick.

The bylaw has been referred back to city staff for review. They are also being asked to make changes, if necessary, before the proposed bylaw comes back to the council.


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