Re: The Recent Passage of the Peterborough Parks and Facilities By-Law
CUPE 3908 represents part-time academic instructors and graduate student workers at Trent University. The nature of the precarious work performed by our membership, in addition to the large amount of student debt that many of them carry, means that a significant number of our academic workers do not have a stable source of income and are actually living below the poverty line. The connection between these working conditions and Peterborough’s low vacancy rate, high cost of housing, and lack of accessible subsidized housing has compelled us to write this letter in opposition to the recently passed Parks and Facilities By-Law.
CUPE 3908 acknowledges the difficult task that the Mayor and City Council have faced in trying to balance public interests while respecting civil liberties. To this end, CUPE 3908 has serious concerns about this by-law and the disproportionately high impact that it will have on homeless people in Peterborough. The by-law effectively criminalizes poverty and therefore puts even greater limitations on people who already experience oppression and injustice in our community. Pointing to available shelter beds as the solution does not mean that those beds are accessible or appropriate for those who were living in tents. The by-law, coupled with the fact that these community members now do not know where they can safely sleep from one night to the next, effectively permits the city to fine our most marginalized citizens for the alleged ‘offence’ of being unable to afford stable housing for themselves and their families. Such judgment and treatment of our fellow community members is unacceptable.
The Parks & Facilities By-Law was passed with minimal public consultation, and evidently did not consider the broader issue of further marginalizing the affected individuals. The end result is that the residents of Tent City have been evicted to parts unknown, which presents safety and dignity concerns for those individuals and their families. The City unfortunately has not addressed the actual problem, which is the inaccessibility of housing; the presence of tents in parks is merely one symptom of the overarching problems of unemployment and homelessness. Such symptoms are a natural by-product of the lack of available and affordable housing in Peterborough, a strategy employed by homeless community members to survive the summer months.
The notion that a by-law whose aim is to restrict the use of public parks would be considered by our City’s elected officials to be an appropriate response to this crisis of inaccessible affordable housing is shortsighted.
We call upon the City to:
We further urge the City to exact appropriate financial support from the Provincial and Federal governments to help Peterborough address the root causes of our dual housing and homlessness crisis.
CUPE 3908 Executive