City to review rules about public's use of municipal property

Brantford city hall File photo / Brantford Expositor

Share Adjust Comment Print

Councillors have asked city staff to review policies and bylaws related to the use of city property by members of the public after organizers of a recent pro-choice rally were told they couldn’t use the civic centre property as a gathering spot.

At an operations and administration meeting this week, councillors directed staff to look into “policies, bylaws, procedures and processes relating to the use of city property by members of the public with a view to ensuring that said documents recognize and respect the rights and freedoms set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Two Brantford women organized a pro-choice rally on May 31 in reaction to Brantford-Brant MPP Will Bouma speaking at a pro-life rally held earlier that month in front of Queens Park.

Their original plan called for demonstrators to gather at the civic centre and prepare to march to Bouma’s office on Nelson Street.

That plan was cancelled after organizers were told by city officials that they couldn’t gather at the city-owned facility. Maria Visocchi, the city’s director of communications, said the group was asked to change its meeting place so not to disrupt previously scheduled activities and access to the back parking lot at the civic centre, which is provided to staff at the adjacent Elements Casino.

“The city is not taking any steps to prohibit the pro-choice march from happening on Friday and certainly supports the right for citizens who want to participate (and) to protest peacefully,” said Visocchi at the time.

Instead, the pro-choice group, and a group of pro-life supporters, met at Bouma’s office. There were hundreds of participants.

Coun. Cheryl Antoski received unanimous support for her request for a review of documents related to the use of city property for such events.

Antoski said city staff acted appropriately based on policies currently in place but she doesn’t want the city to be “creating a barrier for people to have the right to speak.”

Antoski said current city policies related to the use of city property by the public apply to special events, such as Frosty Fest, held in and around Harmony Square, and Ribfest, held annually in Cockshutt Park. Organizers of those types of events must make arrangements with the city for insurance, security and other requirements several months ahead.

Antoski said that’s not realistic for groups that decide to hold protests based on current events.

“These things can happen overnight,” she said.

Although Antoski said there have been few such protests in Brantford, she believes it’s time to have a clear rules about using city property.

“I’m thrilled people are getting active and speaking, no matter what side they’re on. People need to get more involved in the decisions politicians make. They have the right to speak their minds and we expect them to behave as responsible adults. If they don’t, we deal with it differently.”

City staff will report back to councillors with any recommended changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments