Higher fines could hit Vancouver's homeless hard

Violating City of Vancouver bylaws by sleeping on the streets or doing illegal vending may become a lot more costly.

Staff are recommending a 400-percent increase in maximum fines, from the current amount of $2,000 to a stiff $10,000. The proposed hike covers 42 bylaws. It is subject to a public hearing on Tuesday (January 15).

While councillors are required to remain neutral on matters being taken up at public hearings, Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs agreed to explain the context in which this measure is being deliberated. According to Meggs, the increase brings the city’s fines in line with changes made to the Vancouver Charter in 2009.

Meggs also noted that, based on a report prepared by staff, profits made by those who violate bylaws far exceed in many cases the fines the city levies. These infractions include illegal parking and advertising on the sides of buildings.

“The staff argument is simply that there is no deterrent,” Meggs told the Straight by phone.

Non-Partisan Association councillor George Affleck is interested to see who will show up to speak at the public hearing. He noted in a phone interview with the Straight that the increase is a “significant jump”.

The bylaws covered by the suggested fine increase are grouped into three categories: operation and management of businesses; building safety, land use and development, and property maintenance; and use of public spaces and conduct of individuals. Two of these bylaws are being challenged in court by Pivot Legal Society on behalf of a homeless man who was ticketed by police and engineering staff several times.

“Obviously $10,000 is quite severe and impossible to pay for a homeless person, and so is $2,000,” Pivot lawyer Scott Bernstein told the Straight by phone. “It sucks that much more, but it’s still something that they won’t be able to pay.”

Jean Swanson, a long-time antipoverty activist in the Downtown Eastside, said that it’s “horrible” that poor street vendors are being ticketed. “So to give them higher tickets is very punitive,” Swanson told the Straight in a phone interview.

Civic watchdog Randy Helten suggested that the proposed increase seems a bit arbitrary. The founder of City Hall Watch told the Straight by phone, “Staff should present comparative information about what the fines are in other leading municipalities in Canada, and provide an adequate basis for that number.”

Comments (13) Add New Comment
lars gunnerson
I say fine them
Rating: -37
Its outrageous that Vancouver City Hall has made it a Crime to be Poor!

Charging a Homeless person any amount of money much less $10,000 is discriminatory against the Indigent. Why not charge that amount for illeagal parking? Because its just as ridiculous as fines in the $10,000 range for being poor.

Its also unconsitutional I hope people and the Pivot Legal Society take each ticket they get and file a Law Suit in the BC Supreme Court for Violation of Constitutional Rights and any other violations incuding Discrimination.

When the City is drowning in Law Suits in the BC Supreme Court (not Small Claims) costing $100K+ each X 1,000+ than perhaps they will come to their senses, if not keep Filing Suit against them until they do.
Rating: +35
How does the city plan to collect said $10,000 from the homeless?
Rating: +37
Cool, soon we'll be like California, with $10,000 fines for playing frisbee at the beach.

Thanks Vision Vancouver!
Thanks Vancouver Voters!
Rating: +17
Disgusted Voter
This Vision Vancouver government is becoming more and more disgusting as it creates a city that punishes the most marginalized citizens and paves the way for only the wealthy to live here.

I know so many people who have left and who plan to leave because none of us can afford to live here anymore.

Vision Vancouver, your true colours are showing as poor haters, its time to correct your social policies.
Rating: +5
The tickets dont get paid but the amount issued is simply for statistics-same goes for drunk in public tickets given to the homeless.
Rating: 0
shame again on Gregor Robertson...he should be thrown out of office and made to sleep on the streets for a while...
Rating: -5
Evicted from my city
This is all part of the big plan to get rid of any undesirable from Vancouver's streets.
First take away the affordable housing but keep a few and turn them over to BC Housing where only a select few of the disadvantaged people in the city to look like the city is doing something to house the homeless.
Then when there is all these homeless all over the city people and business start complaining then comes in more police and more private security to put people mind at ease when they see those hired guns harassing the homeless that has nowhere else to go.
The next step is to give the police more power by being able to issue steep fines for being homeless or trying to make a buck trying to sell stuff on the street because welfare cut them off because a work program like Open Door Group concluded that they were not putting enough effort in their work search and their hygiene is terrible because being homeless is a full time job.
Then when all these tickets been issued its time to collect no money no problem you won a prize of 2 month in jail where real criminals will teach you ways to make money and give you a place in their gangs so you won't be homeless and poor when you get out.
Repression will only create a much more violent society.
Rating: +14
Arthur Vandelay
Does nobody read anymore?? Gawd.

"Meggs also noted that, based on a report prepared by staff, profits made by those who violate bylaws far exceed in many cases the fines the city levies. These infractions include illegal parking and advertising on the sides of buildings."
Rating: -5
Disgusted voter
@Arthur Vandelay - That quote by Meggs is simply nonsense when speaking about the homeless. There is no way that homeless vendors selling used crap on in the streets of the DTES make more than the current, or possible future fines. Go have a look for yourself what's being sold down there. If people were making that much money, they wouldn't be homeless in the first place.

I can't stand where this Vision city council is taking the city I have called home for well over 27 years. Like many people I know, I will soon be departing to a place that you don't have to be wealthy to live a decent life.
Rating: +1
I read @Arthur's post as ironic. It reads much better that way, whether it was meant to or not. =)
Rating: +1
Rolf Auer
Oh, Brav-O!! Gregor, would you please pay my fine for me if/when I'm caught?
Rating: -9
I really want to know what people are smoking at city hall.

They haven't thought this through properly, one only hopes they don't waste vast amounts of taxpayers money trying to collect fines from people who cannot pay, and have no assets. The homeless are homeless for a reason.

Imagine what could be done if the city put half as much effort into dealing with the lack of affordable housing....

Rating: -1
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