UBCM BRIEFS: River camping, treaty impacts, max fines, gender neutrality

Gender-inclusive language and a potential ban on riverbed camping were among debates of B.C. municipal leaders last week

Gravel or sand bars along the Similkameen River and other scenic rivers in B.C. often attract campers.

Campers who set up on sand bars of scenic B.C. rivers after high water to fish and party were in the crosshairs of some B.C. mayors at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

A motion that would have asked the province to ban camping in active riverbeds was defeated Friday despite the urging of Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer, who said crews each year haul away tonnes of garbage strewn in the sensitive habitat of the Similkameen River.


But Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen said a total ban on river camping would be a huge blow to tourism in northwestern B.C., where large numbers of people camp along the banks of the Skeena River each summer.

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz sympathized with Bauer and slammed the messy campers who foul the Chilliwack River.

“They leave behind a tremendous amount of trash, things that are absolutely detrimental to our river. We have people driving their trucks into the river,” she said.

“The real issue is there are not enough conservation officers, let’s be really frank,” Gaetz said to strong applause. “If we want to have tourism in our communities, let’s get with it province, and let’s be sure we are looked after properly by conservation officers.”

Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt also opposed the resolution, saying many people practice proper no-trace camping and shouldn’t be banned. He also suggested a ban might lead to greater risk of erosion, wildfires and other problems if riverbed campers are pushed to higher ground.

North Cowichan Coun. Al Siebring questioned whether a ban could even be enforced, given court rulings allowing tent cities in city parks.


Ranchland treaty impacts raised

The plight of ranchers in the Interior who have discovered treaty negotiations may result in them losing leased Crown land to local First Nations got a turn in the spotlight at UBCM.

Cariboo Regional District vice-chair Margo Wagner said some ranches may be bisected by a strip of aboriginal-requested land, and in one case a First Nation has expressed interest in land totally surrounding a ranch homestead as part of a treaty settlement.

“The lack of communication that has been done by both the province and the federal government is a disservice to the people that have farmed the land for a considerable number of generations,” she said.

The Cariboo Regional District wanted senior governments to guarantee better, more timely consultations with affected third parties, and to deliver more openness in treaty talks.

Delegates voted in favour of that in the end, but amended the CRD resolution to eliminate additional clauses that impacts on third parties be minimized and that they receive fair compensation at full market value.

Vancouver Coun. Adriane Carr said the excluded clauses were incompatible with efforts to reconcile with First Nations because they would have sent the signal that UBCM wants to minimize the impact on third parties and is therefore biased in favour of them and against First Nations.


Stiffer bylaw fines sought

Cities want the province to allow them to levy stiffer tickets for bylaw violations.

UBCM delegates passed a resolution asking the province to raise the the maximum fine to as much as $5,000 – up from the current $1,000 limit, which hasn’t changed since 2003.

West Vancouver Coun. Nora Gambioli said the a higher limit is needed to punish more serious bylaw offences such as illegal tree cutting, riparian area damage and dangerous dog violations.

She said the current $1,000 is not worth the time and expense for municipalities to mount a prosecution.


Stamping out the man

UBCM will ask the province to force all local governments to use gender-neutral language to be more inclusive of all citizens.

Many cities already choose to do so, but some delegates said holdouts don’t deserve a choice.

A resolution making the request passed, but there were opponents.

Esquimalt Coun. Susan Low said she doesn’t want the province overriding local autonomy in language matters, calling it a bad precedent.

And Powell River Regional District director Colin Palmer said such “silly” resolutions “abuse” the English language.

Palmer argued “man” in many words such as manhole and alderman reflect not exclusive gender but the latin root word “manus” that refers to hand and in some cases the act of voting with the hand.

“Nowadays, some of you are chairs,” he told delegates. “You used to be a chairman because you voted – you controlled the votes. You used to be an alderman because you were an elder who voted.”

Other delegates on the pro side expressed disbelief that there was any debate whatsoever.

The provincial government replaced the title alderman with councillor years ago after a 1990 request by UBCM.

UBCM delegates also passed a resolution urging local governments to develop and implement transgender inclusion policies.

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