NOTE: This has been updated (June 18) to include the video of the meeting.
The situation around the homeless in our small town has become a hotly contentious issue.
Even though we had a flood of historic proportions last year that has created major problems for home owners, businesses and the city in general this issue has come to take precedence. At least in the minds of the community that wants City Council to do something about it.
There is even a Facebook group that has swollen to hundreds of members in a short time. I know many people, with good intentions, and even some city councilors are members of this group.
They held a public town hall style meeting at Perley school a little while ago. You can watch that here.
Recently they held a rally outside city hall 15 minutes before the last city council meeting happened. This was ostensibly in support of council. And by and large apparently it was . . . but not everyone was as well behaved as the rest. This resulted in a loud commotion in the hall outside council chambers. This disturbance began before the meeting started and didn’t end until 20 minutes into the meeting. And that only after the police had been called and attended. You can hear them in the first 20 minutes of the city council meeting below. Around 3 to 4 minutes in it is quite evident. I will note that the microphone, which is fairly directional, was not even pointed in their direction.
After returning home from that meeting I posted to facebook about this. I pointed out that while this was supposed to be a rally in support of council it didn’t turn out that way. And seeing some of the commentary from that Facebook group in advance of the meeting . I will quote from my post below.
Well if that was supposed to be a rally in support of council I’m glad they didn’t have a rally to lambaste council.
Or was there a ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge’ hidden in the notice I didn’t pick up on? (no I really really don’t need an answer to that one)
I posted that and turned off the commenting. Which prompted questions. When I gave someone the gist of what happened they in turn posted . . . and then faced the wrath of some supporters of the group.
After finding the original posting about the rally I turned commenting on and shared that to the comments section. Which led me to face an onslaught all that evening and into the next day. It went from outright denial to saying I was BS’ing and exaggerating. Essentially calling me a liar without actually using the word.
And I added this as well:
This is how it was advertised in the C4 group.
Seeing the signs in the crowd and the RCMP having to be called and learning about some of the pre-event commentary in that group I’m not surprised now.
It was grueling.
First someone claimed it was ‘just one guy’. But it was a group and people in the council chambers could hear them. People listening on the live stream could hear them. At one point this group was chanting.
I was doing my job broadcasting and couldn’t get up and go to the door to see better so I could only report on what I saw and heard. Which included the cops being called.
That was denied. When someone stood up to point out that this was true they were then attacked. Having them point out that not just one but two staffers had called the cops did nothing to ameliorate the situation – it only appeared to fan the passion of the people behaving like trolls.
What I hadn’t included in my original post was some of the comments I found associated with the rally posting on that group. I shall share those below.
Don’t like whats going on, then get your butts down here on Monday, I’m going to suggest a little earlier than 645 case they try to sneak in early.
ALL the doors need manning. I’m sure there’s more than one entrance.
I wouldn’t put it past the snakes
Pretty sad when they try to pull the wool over our eyes
“… they can give Mr. T a lesson or two on sneaky and bullying!!! Wasn’t till we threatened to bring in lawyers did they back down, …”
Seeing those comments and my experience of being in council chambers while the disturbance was going on outside the doors I suggest that my remarks were informed by the information and experience I had. How could it be otherwise?
I later found out from others that initially it was one woman who would not be silenced for quite a while and after she’d given up she was followed by ‘some guy’ who wouldn’t quit until the police talked to him. Why the chanting happened I don’t know. Why the disrespect for council took place for 20 minutes after a rally ‘in support of council’ I cannot say either. Though when you’re involved in a group that holds a public rally or protest and people show up and misbehave it’s your group that gets the blame.
I do not hide the fact that I do not share the same thinking as the group does.
In posts on that group I see people complaining that without all 4 pillars we should not accept any single pillars. That supportive housing without the rest of the complementary support systems should be rejected. I’m no Internet Expert on Housing First or 4 Pillars the way some in that group have said they are. I will freely admit that.
Someone shared a post that was made by one of the group’s admins to another group in BC what has been fighting against BC Housing. At the end of that post they write “We need to start banding together provincially to take down BCH!”
I won’t go into what I think is wrong with that but I will say it would be a fruitless and expensive exercise. I’ve seen and heard people say that the city should take BCH to court. As if we did not have enough expenses on our plate with the flood and all that entails. BCH is a Crown Corporation. It’s power flows from a higher source than city council’s.
I do have a suggestion though . . . you can see that below.
I also have to point out once again that I am a Volunteer. No One pays me for most of what I do in the community – most of the time all they have to do is ask. On occaision I will be hired but when that happens they tell me that up front. And often wait an unreasonable amount of time for me to actually bill them. It’s frustrating for them.
But I’m a volunteer first. Because our small town shouldn’t have to pay for what would be expensive services if they don’t need to. If I can help out.
Another reason I no longer take money from city hall is because I want it clear in everyone’s head that I do not work for city hall, I work for the community. Partly in the hope that when people are passionately fighting about things I won’t get mistakenly wounded in the cross fire.
But that was stupid of me to think that way. If you take a side you become a target. And even if you have truth on your side the Trolls don’t care.
This past week has been one of the most stressful in my 13 years covering council. Even during the water meter controversy it wasn’t this bad. I’ve struggled with how to respond. I’ve struggled against a looming desire to stop doing everything and tell the whole town to stuff it. And I’ve struggled against that part of me that yearns to join the fight and make them pay – that part scares me.
If it wasn’t for the words of support of others. If the DBA hadn’t reached out to ask me to record two whole morning presentations. If that hadn’t kept me busy every single day this week (so much so that city council is way on the back burner). Without that I might have stewed away until I gave it all up and what the new reporter at the Gazette worried about in his editorial would come to pass – Les wouldn’t be there to broadcast council. Because it takes hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours of work to provide this one ‘free service’ but for the trolls it only takes a couple of minutes of concentrated venom-laced invective and accusations spread over hours to make it all go away.
Here’s my freely made suggestion for All the groups in BC that want to get the system fixed and the have the supports badly needed in our communities properly funded and implemented.