By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
HALDIMAND—Over the past few years it has become apparent to Haldimand County staff that there are not enough enforcement measures available to handle various public nuisance issues within the municipality.
Public protesting, unauthorized use of the Hagersville quarry, and street preaching were listed as some of the issues that County bylaw officers currently have limited means to mitigate. As a result, staff members have worked with the County solicitor to develop a new nuisance bylaw.
The issue was amplified over the course of summer 2019, during which time a group of people were meeting weekly in downtown Dunnville to protest. The County received a large influx of complaints from local residents calling the behaviour loud, offensive, and intimidating to the community. Similar disruptions have taken place around the County.
Currently, the main tool available to deal with such issues is the noise bylaw. While a useful tool, it has not provided enough regulatory options to mitigate the increased issues. The new nuisance bylaw offers a much more robust set of tools to support bylaw officers.
Staff researched nuisance bylaws in other communities, including Guelph, London, and Oshawa. In addition, reviews were conducted on any current bylaws that relate to the issue, as well as freedom of expression provisions included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The review revealed a list of activities that can be addressed or mitigated. Some of those activities include public intoxication, outdoor urination, loitering in downtown cores, abusive or insulting language, yelling or the use of sound amplification devices, fighting, littering, graffiti or other acts of vandalism to public property, and protest activities that block access to a public or private property.
The bylaw aims to address these concerns by granting additional enforcement powers in any place where the public has express or implied right of access, such as highway access, public parks and sidewalks, public beaches, and any private property that is exposed to public view.
While the bylaw will greatly increase the County’s ability to mitigate offensive behaviours, it is not a catch-all solution. Actionable behaviours must still be witnessed by an officer and enforcement of the bylaw is contingent upon the OPP agreeing to enforce it under the terms of their contract with the County.
The next step once the bylaw has been adopted will be to apply to the Ministry of the Attorney General to establish set fines. The expectation is that any infraction will carry a fine between $200-$300, with fines increasing to a maximum of $25,000 in the case of repeat offenders.