Thunder Bay

City council in Kenora, Ont., votes down contentious loitering bylaw

A proposed loitering bylaw for Kenora, Ont., was defeated by a vote of six to one.

"It's clear from the mail I have received this bylaw is about symbolism," says Coun. Sharon Smith

Kenora City Council (L-R Councillor Sharon Smith, Councillor Andrew Poirier, Councillor Chris Van Walleghem, Mayor Daniel Reynard, Councillor Mort Goss, Councillor Rory McMillan, and Councillor Kirsi Ralko) voted to defeat a proposed loitering bylaw on Tuesday. (kenora.ca)

A proposed loitering bylaw for Kenora, Ont., was defeated by city council at its meeting Tuesday. 

The bylaw lost by a vote of 6-1 with Coun. Chris Van Walleghem casting the only vote in favour.

If passed, the bylaw would have allowed police to ticket people if they were found loitering on public property in the northwestern Ontario city.  The ticket carried a fine of $100. 

Prior to Tuesday's vote, the proposed bylaw drew criticism from First Nations leaders and community activists throughout the region over concerns it would unfairly target Kenora's homeless and transient people, most of whom are Indigenous, and many who suffer from mental health and addictions issues.

Speaking before the vote at Tuesday's meeting, several councillors echoed those concerns.

"In my mind, it's no longer about a loitering bylaw," said Coun. Sharon Smith. "It's clear from the mail I have received this bylaw is about symbolism."

"It is reminiscent of the 1970s," she said. "It recalls bad government policy, loss of lands, culture and sustainability, residential schools, [the] 60s Scoop, stolen children, and much more."

Smith said the proposed bylaw would be "hurtful to many."

Coun. Andrew Poirier said he initially supported the bylaw, but emails and phone calls received by council had changed his mind.

However, Poirier said crime remains a major issue in downtown Kenora, and it needs to be addressed.

"We've heard from a lot of people," he said at Tuesday's meeting. "Talk is cheap. We still, without this bylaw, have an issue downtown that everybody's aware of."

"Now's the time for everybody to step up and try and solve this problem."

Coun. Kirsi Ralko said she hopes the debate around the bylaw will "catalyze" people to get involved, and work to solve Kenora's homelessness and addictions issues, which contribute to crime in the city's downtown area.

now