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Fact-Checking City & Council Communications re: "Homelessness" Motion & Bills

Updated: Sep 21

We made note of some incorrect information stated in the June 21 Council meeting, at which the controversial Bills 67 & 68 (the "Homelessness" Bills) were referred back to staff. Unfortunately, some of this misinformation continues to be communicated from Council and City Hall, so we are providing a more thorough fact-check. (And updating it as we continue to hear new misinformation.)


Copies of all documents referred to are linked in "Related Documents" below. And a more detailed analysis of Bills 67 & 68 is given further below, under "Clause-By-Clause Analysis of the Bills in Plain English". (Sorry for all the scrolling – our blog doesn't provide for anchors!)

 

But wait, didn't the bills get voted against in June? Why worry now?

Both the Motion and the Bills are still on the table – this is not over!

  • At the June meeting, Bills 67 & 68 were referred back to staff – that still leaves the door open for them to come back in an edited form. Had Council voted against the bills, the proverbial door would be closed on them for good, but they were sent back to staff for review and potential changes.

  • The Motion from May (which gave direction to change the bylaws to prevent food, etc., from being distributed on public property) is still in effect – i.e., the direction is still there to change the existing bylaws to prevent distribution of food, etc., on City property. That motion and its directions have not been "cancelled".



Fact-Checking the Claims


Claim: "This motion addresses the homeless crisis in Barrie" / "These are homelessness prevention initiatives"

  • As we noted in our Open Letter to Council, the May 17 Direct Motion Without Notice, brought forward by Councillors Hamilton and Morales, was presented as a motion "to address chronic homelessness", but contains no clause that offers relief from or prevention of homelessness – it only addresses what is to be done for or to individuals who are already experiencing homelessness.

  • The key to homelessness prevention is affordable and accessible housing, and none of the clauses in the Direct Motion Without Notice, or in proposed Bills 67 & 68 refer to housing at all.

Claim: "There was never any intent to prevent people from giving out food or water"

  • The exact wording of Section 1.d of the approved Motion is "Changes to the City's By-laws, protocols and processes to: ... ii. prohibit the distribution of food and grocery products in public spaces without the use of a permit;" – prohibiting the distribution of food, etc., was very much the intent, stated explicitly in the Motion, and in several pre-June 21 media interviews.

  • Bill 67 – which was written as a result of that Motion – would have added this clause, which specifically forbids handing out of food, etc.:

  • No person shall give away, exchange or otherwise provide at no charge, items, products, samples of items or products, or any other similar item including but not limited to food, clothing, tents, tarps or other similar item used as a shelter, to assist with sleeping or protection from the elements to members of the public from any public park unless authorized to do so.

  • Bill 68 – which was also written as a result of that Motion – would have REMOVED the wording of the existing bylaw, which makes it clear that giving away food or other necessities is not in breach of the City Bylaws.

  • Existing/current wording: Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, any federally, provincially or municipally funded organization or any registered charitable organization or any individual that is giving away or otherwise providing food, water, clothing or medical attention, at no charge to members of the public shall not be deemed to be in contravention of this section.

  • The existing / current Bylaw specifically allowed / allows food distribution, Bill 68 would have forbidden it.

  • Not only would Bill 68 have removed that exemption, it would have ADDED significant fines (potentially several hundred thousands of dollars) for giving away food or other necessities of life (see the full analysis below).

  • There was no vagueness or confusing language in this Motion or these Bills – they all very clearly and specifically intended to prevent people from giving out food and other necessities of life.

  • Claims stating otherwise are most definitely in violation of the City's Code of Conduct, especially the following Sections:

  • 5.1 Members are responsible for making honest statements. No member shall make a statement when they know that statement is false. No member shall make a statement with the intent to mislead Council or members of the public. and

  • 5.12 Members of Council: ... (f) May not make statements known to be false or make a statement with the intent to mislead Council or the public

Claim: "Council has requested that staff revise and modernize the outdated language of a by-law that has been in place for nearly twenty years, which prevented individuals from handing out food and necessities on City property."

  • This is simply not true – as outlined in our June 21 post, and outlined in the Bill analysis below, the Bylaw "that has been in place for nearly twenty years" specifically ALLOWS individuals and organizations to hand out food and necessities on City property. The Bills brought forward (and then sent back to staff) would have specifically REMOVED that ability, AND threatened to fine individuals up to several hundred thousands of dollars for doing so.

  • The old (and still-existing) Bylaws were not problematic – Bills 67 & 68 were. (The old and existing Bylaws do have their own problems, but preventing individuals from giving out food, water and other necessities were and are not part of them.)

  • Those members of Council who are knowingly trying to blame the old Bylaws for the clauses that Bills 67 & 68 would have removed and replaced would be well advised to re-read the City's Code of Conduct, especially the following Sections:

  • 5.1 Members are responsible for making honest statements. No member shall make a statement when they know that statement is false. No member shall make a statement with the intent to mislead Council or members of the public. and

  • 5.12 Members of Council: ... (f) May not make statements known to be false or make a statement with the intent to mislead Council or the public

Claim: "Bills 67 & 68 are being referred back to staff because the Busby Centre agreed to stop handing out food at the waterfront / downtown, so the new bylaws are not needed"

  • The Busby Centre was not mentioned at all in the May 17 meeting, when the Direct Motion Without Notice was brought forward by Hamilton & Morales, directing staff to change the Bylaws, nor had they been mentioned at any time leading up to the June 21 meeting.

  • According to a post by the Busby Centre, they did not agree to leave the waterfront or downtown, just to move their daily service stop at the Spirit Catcher to another downtown City parking lot – it is our understanding that they had been in discussion with the City about this for some time prior to June 21.

  • The attempt to blame a community service provider for Bylaws Council directed staff to create also appears to fall under the Code of Conduct's Section 5.1 & 5.12, along with several others.

Claim: "We've committed $825,000 over the next two years to provide warming & cooling centres, food security programs, etc."

  • The $825,000 was an "up to" amount, not a solid number.

  • That funding was to be made available towards ANY of the options listed in section 1 of the Direct Motion Without Notice – it is not necessarily directed at the warming & cooling centres or food security programs, if the CAO decides it is better used towards some of the other options.

  • According to the CAO's June 21 Status Update, the only "complete" items were writing the Bylaw amendments, sending requests to others for additional funding, and scheduling a Public Meeting for September 19.

  • Also according to the CAO's Status Update, $10,000 had been allocated (but not yet provided) to the Elizabeth Fry and John Howard Societies for a "Family Reunification Fund". There was mention of unspecified "suggested allocations" to other initiatives, but to date, no payments have been made for this or any other program.

  • EDIT, July 26: According to a City media release, the $20,000 has now been delivered to the Elizabeth Fry Society and John Howard Society. As far as we are aware, this $20,000 is the only money confirmed to have been delivered to any programs to help vulnerable people.

  • The region had its first Extreme Heat Warning on June 9, but still no commitment to a Cooling Centre, or funds to go towards one – the Status Update does mention City staff spoke with the County about its plans, and adding to the County's commitment of $100,000 to a Warming Centre (though how much would be added is not specified), but nothing about contributing to a Cooling Centre.

  • EDIT, July 3: Another multi-day Extreme Heat Warning, and still nothing from the City about a Cooling Centre.

  • EDIT, July 21: It has been announced that the Gilbert Centre will be providing a daily Cooling Centre from now until mid-September. It is unclear what – if any – City funding is being provided for this project. This initiative appears to be part of the County's roll-out of Cooling Centres throughout the region.

  • The food security items do not seem to have gotten anywhere, according to the Status Update – it does not mention anything about "the provision of daily meal programs", and confirms the Salvation Army is no longer offering a lunch program. It does say "an investment" will be provided to the County's Social and Community Investment Fund, but does not specify an amount – this fund does not provide meal programs or food security programs, however, it helps other organizations develop community-based initiatives. (So there will be no immediate or short-term effect on local food security.)

  • Funds do appear to have been used and allocated for signs with QR codes to be installed at City intersections – the amount is not specified – to discourage panhandling (these signs do nothing to address poverty, food security or homelessness).

  • EDIT, July 20: The City has announced a pilot project for a shuttle service for people leaving Central North Correctional Centre. There is no mention of how much of the funding will be going to this program, but does say that the City will be responsible for ALL associated costs. Again, this item does nothing to help poverty, food security or homelessness.

Claim: "We need to address crime" [by homeless people]

  • There were many anecdotes given in Council Chambers during the introduction of the Direct Motion Without Notice, and in subsequent discussions, but without corroborating evidence to back up these claims. One mover mentioned people being lured into tents, but we have been unable to find either a police or a media report to support this story. The other mover admitted that his anecdote was a fear he had had, and not a crime that had actually taken place.

  • There has been no evidence produced by either the movers or the City that homeless people are disproportionately responsible for crimes in the area.

  • EDIT, August 10: According to the City's own August 3 media release, Statistics Canada ranks Barrie as the lowest in Canada on the Violent Crime Severity Index – leaving one to wonder what crime needs to be addressed?


Related Documents


Direct Motion Without Notice:


Bill 67

Bill 68


Memo from CAO Prowse – June 21 Status Update on Actions Taken

Engage Barrie Organization's Open Letter to City Council

Other Related Correspondence


Clause-By-Clause Analysis of the Bills in Plain English


Bill 67 – would have amended Bylaw 2019-059 (Parks Use Bylaw)


Clause 1:

  • Would delete existing Section 10.12.0.0.0: "No person shall display, set up, sell or offer for sale any good, product, service, activity or literature within a public park unless authorized to do so."

  • And replace it with: "No person shall display, set up, sell or offer for sale or provide any good, product, service, item, activity or literature within a public park whether an exchange or funds has taken place or not unless authorized to do so."

In plain English:
  • The existing bylaw requires anyone wishing to sell anything in a public park to get a permit to do so.

  • The proposed amendment would extend that permit requirement to anyone offering such things (goods, products, services, items, activities or literature) for free.

  • This clause would have broadened the scope of this bylaw to the extent that handing out flyers (literature) or organizing a neighbourhood informal soccer game (activities) in a park would require a City permit.

Clause 2:

  • Would add Section 10.12.1.0.0: "Notwithstanding section 10.12.0.0.0, no person shall give away, exchange or otherwise provide at no charge, items, products, samples of items or products, or any other similar item including but not limited to food, clothing, tents, tarps or other similar item used as a shelter, to assist with sleeping or protection from the elements to members of the public from any public park unless authorized to do so."

In plain English:
  • This proposed amendment would have prevented anyone from handing out the necessities of life to someone in need in a public park.

  • Giving someone a sandwich, a raincoat, or a sleeping bag in a public park would be against the law.

  • As pointed out in our May 29 letter to City Council – and echoed by many human rights organizations in the following weeks – this clause would have gone against both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Clause 3:

  • Would add Section 10.32.0.0.0: "No person shall use a tent or sunshade within a public park unless such tent or sunshade is solely supported by no more than one pole and having no more than one wall or side or unless authorized to do so."

In plain English:
  • This addition would have prevented anyone from using a shelter from the rain, snow or sun in a public park, other than essentially an umbrella.

  • With this wording, even a small tent to shade small children would be illegal to put up, and nobody would be able to give themselves significant shelter from sun or storm.

Clause 4:

  • Would delete Section 11.6.0.0.0: "For the purpose of this section, sections 10.0.0.0.0 thru to 10.31.0.0.0 (General Provisions) shall also apply to all Waterfront Parks."

  • And replace it with: "For the purpose of this section, sections 10.0.0.0.0 thru to 10.32.0.0.0 (General Provisions) shall also apply to Waterfront Parks."

In plain English:
  • This is just a housekeeping item, to include the new Section added in Clause 3 to the existing wording.

Clause 5:

  • Would delete Section 11.16.1.0.0: "Section 11.16.0.0.0 shall not apply to the lands municipally known as Little Lake Park."

In plain English:
  • Under the current Bylaw, Little Lake Park is exempt from Section 11.16.0.0.0 "No person shall use a tent or sunshade within a waterfront park unless such tent or sunshade is solely supported by no more than one pole and having no more than one wall or side or unless authorized to do so."

  • This clause would have made it illegal to use a tent or sun shade (other than, essentially, an umbrella – as noted above in Clause 3) in Little Lake Park as well.

Clause 6:

  • Would delete Section 12.3.0.0.0: "For the purpose of this section, sections 10.0.0.0.0 thru to 10.31.0.0.0 (General Provisions) shall also apply to Dog Off Leash Recreational Areas."

  • And replace it with: "For the purpose of this section, sections 10.0.0.0.0 thru to 10.32.0.0.0 (General Provisions) shall also apply to Dog Off Leash Recreational Areas."

In plain English:
  • As with Clause 4, this is just a housekeeping item, to include the new Section added in Clause 3 to the existing wording.

Clause 7:

  • Would delete Section 13.2.0.0.0: "For the purpose of this section, sections 10.0.0.0.0 thru to 10.31.0.0.0 (General Provisions) shall also apply to Meridian Place / Memorial Square."

  • And replace it with: "For the purpose of this section, sections 10.0.0.0.0 thru to 10.32.0.0.0 (General Provisions) shall also apply to Meridian Place / Memorial Square ."

In plain English:
  • As with Clauses 4 & 7, this is just a housekeeping item, to include the new Section added in Clause 3 to the existing wording.

Clause 8:

In plain English:
  • Had this bill passed, all the above clauses would have come into effect immediately on June 21, before any opportunity for input from the public and community stakeholders, as had been indicated by previous communications from Council, and promised in Section "i" of Hamilton & Morales's Direct Motion Without Notice.

Bill 68 – would have amended Bylaw 2004-142 (Nuisance Bylaw)

Clause 1:

  • Would delete Section 6: "No person shall sell, or offer for sale, any product or service from any City property, unless authorized by the City."

  • And replace it with: "No person shall sell, offer for sale, or provide due to or through the exchange of funds, any product, service or items from any City property, unless authorized by the City."

In plain English:
  • Plain English is a little tricky here – the addition of "or provide due to or through the exchange of funds" seems to still require an exchange of funds to make exchange of the product, service or items illegal – although "due to" makes it murky, since presumably an exchange of funds would have had to take place to purchase products or items. This is a convoluted and confusing clause, and we are unsure of the intent behind it.

Clause 2:

  • Would delete Section 7: "No person shall give away or otherwise provide at no charge, items, products, samples of items or products, or any other similar item to members of the public from any City property, unless authorized by the City. Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, any federally, provincially or municipally funded organization or any registered charitable organization or any individual that is giving away or otherwise providing food, water, clothing or medical attention, at no charge to members of the public shall not be deemed to be in contravention of this section."

  • And replace it with: "No person shall give away, exchange or otherwise provide at no charge, items, products, samples of items or products, or any other similar item including but not limited to food, clothing, tents, tarps or other similar item used as a shelter, to assist with sleeping or protection from the elements to members of the public from any City property, unless authorized by the City."

In plain English
  • The existing Bylaw prohibited giving away products, etc., on City property without permission – BUT the second sentence specifically made an exemption to this rule for the giving away of food, water, clothing or medical attention.

  • According to the existing Bylaw, any provincially- or municipally-funded organization (i.e., social service organizations) or registered charity OR INDIVIDUAL was specifically permitted to give away the necessities of life on City property without seeking permission.

  • The proposed amendment TOOK AWAY the ability to give out the necessities of life on City property, and went on to specifically forbid the giving away of food, clothing, tents, tarps or other necessities of life.

  • The proposed amendment specifically forbade giving away anything that could be used as a shelter, to assist with sleeping, OR PROTECTION FROM THE ELEMENTS.

  • This is the clause that would have expressly forbidden the giving away of a sandwich, a pillow, a blanket, or even an umbrella on City property.

Clause 3:

  • Would delete Section 20: "The provisions of this by-law shall be enforced by a Municipal Law Enforcement Officer, Police Officer, Peace Officer, or other individual duly appointed for the purpose of enforcing this by-law."

  • And replace it with: "20. The provisions of this by-law shall be enforced by a Municipal Law Enforcement Officer, Police Officer, Peace Officer, or other individual duly appointed for the purpose of enforcing this by-law. 20.1 No person shall obstruct, hinder, or otherwise interfere with a Property Standards Officer, Municipal Law Enforcement Officer, Provincial Offences Officer, Police Officer, or other duly appointed individual in the lawful carrying out of their duties and responsibilities under the provisions of this by-law."

In plain English
  • Section 20 remains the same, word-for-word – the new regulations would have come under section 20.1

  • Section 20.1 makes it illegal to interfere with someone enforcing this bylaw – "interfere" is such a vague word, however, that it could have been applied to someone simply objecting to charges.

  • Section 20.1 also inexplicably adds Property Standards Officers to the lists of people who could enforce this bylaw (which is not specified in either the original Bylaw or the new Section 20), as well as Provincial Offences Officers (ditto) – whereas the municipality has no jurisdiction or authority over Provincial Offences Officers.

Clause 4:

  • Would delete Section 21: "Every person who contravenes the provisions of this By-law established and passed by the City, pursuant to the authority contained in the Municipal Act or any other General or specific Act, is guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction to a penalty not exceeding $5,000.00 exclusive of costs and the provisions of the Provincial Offences Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P.33, as amended, shall apply to the said fine."

  • And replace it with: “21. Every person who contravenes any provision of this By-law is guilty of an offence under the provisions of the Provincial Offences Act, R.S.O 1990, c P.33, as amended, and is liable on conviction to a penalty not exceeding $5,000, exclusive of costs, subject to the provisions of the Act. 21.1 Every person who contravenes any of the provisions of this By-law, or who obstructs or attempts to obstruct an officer or an employee or agent of the City in carrying out his or her duties under this By-law is guilty of an offence and is liable, upon conviction to a maximum fine as established pursuant to the Provincial Offences Act, R.S.O., 1990, c.P.33. 21.2 Every person who contravenes any provision of this By-law, and every director or officer of a corporation who knowingly concurs in the contravention of this By-law by the corporation, is guilty of an offence under the provisions of the Municipal Act, 2001, S.O. 2001, c. 25 as amended. 21.3 Every person who contravenes the provisions of any section of this By-law, and every director or officer of a corporation who knowingly concurs in the contravention of this By-law by the corporation, is guilty of an offence under the provisions of the Municipal Act, 2001, S.O. 2001, c. 25 as amended and is liable on conviction to a penalty where the minimum fine shall not exceed $500 and a maximum fine shall not exceed $100,000 exclusive of costs under the provisions of the Municipal Act, 2001, S.O. 2001, c. 25 as amended. 21.4 For the purpose of continuous offences, every person who contravenes any provision of this By-law, and every director or officer of a corporation who knowingly concurs in the contravention of this By-law by the corporation, is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to a penalty not exceeding $10,000 per day or part thereof, exclusive of costs, under the provisions of the Municipal Act, 2001, S.O. 2001, c. 25 as amended. 7 By-law 2011-107 The Corporation of the City of Barrie Office Consolidation Yard Maintenance By-law 21.5 For the purpose of multiple offences, every person who contravenes any provision of this By-law, and every director or officer of a corporation who knowingly concurs in the contravention of this By-law by the corporation, is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to a penalty not exceeding $10,000 per offence, exclusive of costs under the provisions of the Municipal Act, 2001, S.O. 2001, c. 25 as amended. 21.6 Notwithstanding Section 21.5, and in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Act, 2001, S.O. 2001, c. 25 as amended, the total of all fines for the continuous offences or multiple offences is not limited to $100,000"

In plain English:
  • Under the existing Bylaw, anyone who sold or gave away free samples on City property without permission would face a maximum charge of $5000.

  • Under the existing Bylaw, no charge would be given to someone giving out food, water, or other necessities of life.

  • With this amendment, the $5000 fine would now apply to those giving out necessities of life in public.

  • With this amendment, anyone objecting to the enforcement of this Bylaw would be subject to the maximum fine available under the Provincial Offences Act (not specified).

  • With this amendment, every director or officer of a corporation (e.g., a not-for-profit or charity) who gave away the necessities of life would be guilty of an offence under the Municipal Act.

  • With this amendment, every person, director or officer of a corporation (including not-for-profit or charity) who gave away the necessities of life would face a $500-$100,000 fine, PLUS COSTS (i.e., would have to pay for the City's legal team's work, as well as their own legal team).

  • With this amendment, if a person, director or officer of a corporation (including not-for-profit or charity) was giving away the necessities of life more than once, they would face a penalty up to $10,000 per day, PLUS COSTS, under the Yard Maintenance Bylaw (it is not made clear how the Yard Maintenance Bylaw applies to giving away the necessities of life on City property).

  • With this amendment, those people would ALSO face a penalty up to $10,000 per day, plus costs, under the Municipal Act.

  • And finally, Section 21.6 of the amendment specifies that the maximum fine is NOT limited to $100,000 – i.e., individuals, non-profits or charities could be fined SEVERAL hundred thousand dollars for repeatedly giving away the necessities of life.

  • Essentially, this Section would have taken the fines from $0 for giving away a sandwich, umbrella, or sleeping bag to SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS for giving away a sandwich, umbrella or sleeping bag.

Clause 5:

In plain English:
  • Had this bill passed, all the above clauses would have come into effect immediately on June 21, before any opportunity for input from the public and community stakeholders, as had been indicated by previous communications from Council, and promised in Section "i" of Hamilton & Morales's Direct Motion Without Notice.








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