The message the Yukon government is trying to convey on social inclusion and poverty by painting slogans on city sidewalks is muddled at best and misguided at worst. The purpose behind painting the words “You Don’t Belong Here” and “You Can’t Take Part” on Main Street sidewalks, and elsewhere, was not explained clearly enough to be effective and has left a lot of people scratching their heads.
Even Health and Social Services Minister Glenn Hart had trouble articulating to the media the intent behind this public awareness campaign, which may have sounded cool but looks foolish now that the paint has dried and the public reaction is rolling in.
One woman called our caucus office this week to express her concern. She told us she had family visiting Whitehorse but she was not going to take them downtown because she found the messaging too embarrassing. As well, the city and local businesses have been waging a long, and costly, war on teens who like to spray graffiti on public buildings and public spaces.
We wonder what they think of a government that does what they have been working so hard to discourage. Messages that read “You Don’t Belong Here” or “You Can’t Stay Here” aren’t normally considered welcoming, or inclusive. Those who have not read the accompanying news release are justifiably upset and confused. Without that context, it could be easy to conclude these messages are telling the destitute and homeless, as well as unsuspecting tourists, to get out of town.
While we commend the government for finally taking steps to address the issues of social inclusion and poverty by hosting public forums, compiling information on how other jurisdictions are combating these serious societal issues, we do not support this silly publicity stunt. Though not nearly as clever, a $30,000 contribution to the Whitehorse Food Bank would have been a much smarter way for the government to show the Yukon people it is at long last taking the problems of social inclusion and poverty seriously.
Steve Cardiff, NDP MLA, Mount Lorne, Liz Hanson, Leader, Yukon New Democratic Party