Calgary passes ‘Safe and Inclusive Access’ bylaw

The Safe and Inclusive Access bylaw has been passed by Calgary’s City Council. The bylaw comes into effect after protestors hindered all-age drag story times at Calgary public libraries.

By Tiffany Goodwein and James Paracy

Calgary city council passed the “Safe and Inclusive Access” bylaw, which is meant to create safe access to libraries and recreational facilities.

It passed late Tuesday afternoon by a vote of 10-5, with councillors Andre Chabot, Dan McLean, Jennifer Wyness, Sonya Sharp, and Sean Chu opposed.

The City of Calgary says it is committed to ensuring “all Calgarians who wish to access public services and facilities are not being exposed to messaging or behaviour that is hateful, intimidates, harasses, or discriminates.”

The bylaw puts a 100-metre protest-free zone around all recreation facilities and libraries. It was initially brought forward after hateful protests targeting the 2SLGBTQ+ community took place at drag story time events.

According to Calgary police, an event called “Reading with Royalty” saw 36-year-old pastor Derek Reimer disrupt it by “shouting homophobic and transphobic slurs with children and parents in attendance.” He has since been charged with six counts of harassment.

“By not even asking protesters to stop protesting, but simply asking them, ‘hey, can you back up a little bit … when you’re protesting something that is the protected human rights of someone else.'” said Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian.

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Those who voted against the bylaw expressed concerns it was being rushed and argued more time was needed to make sure the city gets this decision right.

“It is wrong. It’s unfortunate that we’re here. But we also have to be cautious about creating boomerang bylaws that hurt those we intend to protect,” said Ward 2 Coun. Wyness.

“The chaotic scramble to get answers to questions over the weekend, to approve a bylaw that has jail time, is unacceptable governance.”

In a release, the city says the new bylaw creates “access zones” where all Calgarians can safely access public facilities.

“With our partners at Calgary Police Service, we will continue to ensure harassment of others, or violations of excessive noise or other Bylaw offences, are monitored, investigated and enforced. This can include us enforcing at the time of an offence, during an event, or in many cases, after the fact,” the release reads.

A second related vote included adding “intimidation” to the current public behaviour bylaw.

It passed with a vote of 11-4, with Chabot, McLean, Wyness, and Chu opposed.

Council is scheduled to revisit the bylaw on April 25 to determine its impact on the community and potentially bring forward further recommendations.

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