Editorial: Spitting bylaw won’t cough up results

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A few weeks ago Town Council passed a Public Behaviour bylaw that allows police and peace officers to issue fines for loitering, spitting and relieving one’s bodily wastes in public.

I do see the logic behind pushing for better public hygiene, particularly when we are being dealing with a potentially dangerous new virus, one that lead to the abrupt cancellation of the 2020 Arctic Winter Games — a major bummer for all the athletes who were putting in overtime in training.

However, I really don’t think dropping fines on people who can’t afford to pay them is going to give Inuvik the results it’s hoping for.

Deputy mayor Steve Baryluk notes that the bylaw applies equally to everyone, saying there isn’t “anyone in this town or any other town would agree that defecating in the streets is acceptable. Whether you are a homeless person, or person working in the IDC building or the deputy mayor, if you do some of these behaviours I think everybody will decide that socially it’s not acceptable.”

This is fine and dandy, but I don’t think there is a concern about the deputy mayor dropping a deuce on Mackenzie Road, and if he or she did it would be international news.

What there is a concern about is people occupying downtown at all hours of the day in various stages of intoxication, many of which are homeless, unemployed or both. Invariability it will this group of individuals who absorb the majority of the system’s time enforcing this.

And as Lydia Barduk pointed out, going to court to ensure these fines lead to guilty pleas, even if the individual is put on some sort of probation, is going to cost money and keep officers away from dealing with other problems.

Barduk has spend a good chunk of her life trying to figure out ways to solve these issues, so I would suspect she knows what she’s talking about on this.

It was noted during the meeting that people who couldn’t afford the fine could potentially work it off doing community service. Somehow I think if we can pay an officer to patrol downtown for people leaking bodily fluids and then spend a day at court to ensure they do free labour for the town, we could probably afford to hire said person to do labour and solve two problems at once.

The inspiration for the bylaw was taken from the City of Calgary. This seems obvious as I type it, but… Inuvik is not Calgary. There is in fact around 1,333,000 more people living in Calgary than in Inuvik — the severity of the problem is on a totally different scale.

Closer to Calgary is my birth-town, Edmonton, where we had an ongoing problem with young adults with too much money to burn coming into our inner city and trashing it every weekend. These are the demographics fines like these are intended to target, folks who can afford to pay them.

For now, the bylaw is in force, so we’ll see if I’m wrong. But I suspect people frustrated with drunks downtown would get better results operating a free shuttle to the shelter.

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