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Port Alberni drafts policy preventing anyone promoting hate from renting city facilities

The move follows a decision to cancel an appearance by a controversial speaker at a Port Alberni restaurant in October
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Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions. VIA CITY OF PORT ALBERNI

Port Alberni council has called on staff to draft a policy preventing anyone who might promote hate or contempt from renting indoor or outdoor city facilities.

Mayor Sharie Minions said the policy will be a code of conduct outlining what is expected in city facilities or venues.

The move follows a decision to cancel an appearance by a controversial speaker at a Port Alberni restaurant in October.

Tanya Gaw, founder of the group Action4Canada, was scheduled to speak, but the restaurant’s owner decided against allowing the event at her business.

Gaw had called truth and reconciliation with First Nations a “charade” and a“witch hunt.” In response, Tseshaht First Nation, based at Port Alberni, announced Gaw was not welcome in its territory, which includes the entire Alberni Valley.

The First Nation asked the City of Port Alberni and local businesses to take a stand against views ­promoted by Gaw and Action4Canada.

In response, Port Alberni council decided Action4Canada events would not be allowed in city facilities.

Willa Thorpe, Port Alberni’s director of parks, recreation and heritage, said staff received direction from council to prepare a report outlining actions to keep city facilities free of hate and inclusive of all groups.

Excerpts from similar policies in four other municipalities, including Vancouver, were given to council members.

Thorpe said the goal is for the policy to be preventative.

Minions read out proposed language that includes a statement that venues are open to children, youth, adults and senior of all races, religions, cultures, abilities, economic levels, gender identities and sexual orientations.

It says anyone renting a city property must conduct themselves in a manner respectful of the diverse community, and comply with Port Alberni bylaws, and with federal and provincial legislation, including the B.C. Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act, which would prohibit anything exposing an individual or a group to hatred and contempt.

The city and its representatives have the right to ask an individual or group to leave a city-owned or managed venue if they display inappropriate, disruptive or aggressive behaviour that threatens the safety of others, Minions said.

City officials can choose to ban an individual or organization, or issue a trespass notice, she said, adding it’s a standard the city already maintains for users of its facilities — and “is certainly the standard that I would hold any person coming to council chambers or to a meeting.”

It’s not an attempt to push out anyone or make them feel uncomfortable, she said. “Rather I think it is setting a standard of how we expect people to behave so that we can allow any group to participate and to utilize our facilities.”

Port Alberni resident Michele Fraser, who belongs to Action4Canada, told council it was discriminatory and out of order to ban the group from renting public facilities.

She said that Gaw and others in Action4Canada did not feel safe visiting Port Alberni, adding that she shares that view.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com