Last Monday’s Nanaimo Council meeting was like an Abbott and Costello comedy show. The meeting got off to a rocky start, once again hung up on points of procedure. Was it a motion? Was it an amendment to the main motion? Was it a procedural bylaw? Should the council hear the people now or later?
This Council has been meeting for two years. Why the confusion? Are they trying to run out the new City Clerk?
Objection to hearing from public
Councillor Bestwick asked if they could vote on the jail guard motion right away. Mayor McKay said we usually hear from delegations on the agenda first and then vote on the motion after.
The CAO commented that since this was only a procedural bylaw, it was not necessary for Council to hear from any speakers before they vote on it. Councillor Brennan made a motion to table Councillor Fuller’s motion until they heard from all the speakers.
There was so much confusion, at one point the CAO stood behind the City Clerk. The whole event was very painful to watch. Council eventually decided to hear the people right away rather than at the end of the evening.
Mayor McKay called the vote and all voted in favour of hearing the speakers except Councillor Bestwick who objected. What?! Bestwick objected to hearing from the public?
Four City jail guard positions cut
Two weeks ago, Nanaimo Council voted to cut four City jail guard positions. On November 7th Councillor Fuller put forward a motion to have a female guard on call should a female detainee be present, and only if there is a male guard on duty. The cuts would still stand; there would be one guard working at any time. Fuller’s motion also proposed to monitor the situation for 12 months.
Fuller’s motion failed to pass. Supporting the motion were Councillors Fuller, Hong, Kipp and Bestwick. Opposed were Mayor McKay, Councillors Pratt, Thorpe and Brennan. Councillor Yoachim was absent that evening.
Councillor Thorpe mentioned that he had previously put forward a motion to retain safe staffing levels but it was defeated.
The councillors who voted against Fuller’s motion said it didn’t go far enough to address gender guarding issues and that staffing levels of two guards need to be kept in place for a safe work place.
12 delegations speak
There were 13 people on the agenda regarding the job cuts at the City Jail. Ten delegates against the cuts, two spoke in favour of the cuts, and one arrived too late to speak.
Reconsider changing your vote. Gender specific guarding is a standard in guarding. Council has put a price tag on human dignity. This will have a negative effect.
By cutting down the guarding you are not living up to what you have in the Strategic Plan. This issue has been gone over before in the last 12 years. We find ourselves back in front of Council for the third time in 12 years. First in 2004, 2009 and again in 2016 regarding this issue. Many questions I have sent to council in the last three weeks have not been answered. I am requesting that you reconsider the motion to end Gender Specific Guarding and redo a motion to uphold gender specific guarding in perpetuity within our City. If these job cuts go ahead, the most you would save is $30,000.
My daughter was in lock up. She committed no crime. People need dignity and respect.
We must honour the concerns of these women. The brutal reality of addictions is that some people end up in a City jail. Saving some money is not the point.
I ran a home for street youth. I don’t want to be guarded by a male. If there is only one guard on duty per shift then there is no chance of oversight.
We have women in jails that have suffered abuse and need respect.
Gender guarding makes a difference for these women. Prevention and intervention are important but there are many young girls who are marginalized. This is a step backwards for us.
Councillor Fuller’s argument that no other community provides same sex guarding is not an excuse for providing protections for women. Many wonder how low the council will go to save money. This is an unpopular move. Rescind the vote on these job cuts.
The whole argument about having women guarding women is overblown. Everything is on video. The real problem is abuse of power. Having women on guard doesn’t stop abuse.
In March 2009 this same issue was brought up. At that time Councillor Fuller made a presentation to keep gender specific guarding. In an effort to save money we are making cuts to the most vulnerable in our society. Let us hope this council will see the error of removing gender specific guarding.
I ran the numbers by the City. The number is not accurate. How can you possibly save $360,000? We could add two guards for $60,000. Staffing levels will not be safe with only one guard on per shift. In 2009 Fuller supported gender guarding and now he doesn’t.
Gender is complex now. In which cell would they put a transsexual? Rights are not gender specific. Gender specific guarding could be legally challenged. Stand by your decision, Council.
It’s not about saving money
Councillor Pratt raised some interesting points in the evening. Here is some of the discussion:
Pratt: …one employee?…They have to do surveillance and clean cells and get food. How do you provide surveillance when you have do other things?
CAO: …CUPE has provided us anecdotal information and we need data…
Pratt: … I believe in anecdotal information. No one is being served well with just one guard on duty…
CAO: …we have processes to deal with workloads that will trigger an investigation…
Pratt: …What is the savings with this? We need to look at all the pieces of this.
CAO: I know you would like a magic number of how much money we are saving but we don’t have that. We are not looking at a huge cost savings.
Pratt: That is what I am afraid of.
Privatization of City jail guards
Is the BIG plan to contract out the jail guard jobs? No one on council dared to talk about contracting out.
Councillor Hong said in the meeting that Nanaimo could be a role model for other City jails. Does he mean that Nanaimo will be the first City to contract out City jail guard jobs? What precedent would that set for City jails across Canada? What would that mean for other prisons?
Apparently, the City has not replaced full-time female guards who have resigned or retired. They have been only using casual staff. Why is the City so gung-ho on cutting these jobs when it’s not about saving money? Why the rush? Unless it’s to give some ‘friends’ some contracts.
Do we want to be like the United States and have a private-for-profit prison system? With free trade agreements such as NAFTA, once a decision to outsource has been made there is no going back.
If the City jail guard jobs are contracted out, do we still need two managers? Why do we cut workers but add more and more managers?
Brechin Hill riparian concerns
Brechin Hill Community Association raised concerns about a proposed development at the top of a ravine on Vancouver Avenue. Three delegations spoke on the topic.
A study on St. George waterway ravine needs to be done. The Newcastle plan was finished five years ago and the plan was to assess the needs of the area. The only thing that has been done so far is to make a dog park in the ravine. Nothing has been done to protect the environment. The proposed 10.4 meter variance is not a minor variance. We need to undertake a study of St. George ravine and find out what is best for this area. The house would sit on the edge of the ravine. We don’t have an environmental planner on staff anymore at the City.
As the Chair of Brechin Hill Association, I recommend this development should not be approved. The application was first presented to council in January 2016 and was rejected. There is lots of wildlife in that watercourse. The regulations say there is to be a 15 metre setback from a watercourse. Riparian areas are special. Please reject this application as it stands.
Speaking for the applicant for the new home development, yes this is similar to the last application. There has never been any fish in this waterway. There is one building on this site. The house can’t be relocated. If the society wants a walking trail through there then it will be more interruptions. The house will be back 23 feet from the ravine waterway. We want it to stay green.
Councillor Thorpe commented that he visited the site and didn’t think the riparian area was going to affected because the ravine is so steep and wild. Staff mentioned that the waterway empties into the ocean.
Council approved the building application unanimously.
3425 Uplands Drive 30 unit approved
Last year several people came to speak on this topic with concerns of how a 30-unit development would change their single family neighbourhood. The zoning was changed from R1 to R6 townhome.
Infilling of neighbourhoods needs proper urban design with protections for trees and streams.
Illegal Secondary Suites
It was almost 11pm and Councillor Fuller made a motion on illegal secondary suites. There was one delegation on the motion.
This is not a good motion. It opens the City to liability. There are 1200 known illegal suites now in Nanaimo. There is no definition of what is life safety.
Everyone voted to end the meeting at 11pm.
The motion will be on the next Council meeting agenda. The motion is:
Secondary Suite Enforcement
Limit the inspection of secondary suites to only those units for which formal complaints have been received.
Not proceed with removal orders for historic or known suites that are in contravention of zoning provided that life safety issues have been addressed.
The Council meetings are just like a comedy show or ball game, “who” is on first?