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Chamber pushes for trespass act to address downtown drinking, loitering

There's no easy fix to the downtown social issues that conflict with tourism and business, says Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

There’s no easy fix to the downtown social issues that conflict with tourism and business, says Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

Drinking and loitering in the downtown core and along the waterfront is an ongoing issue for the chamber, Karp said in an interview this week.

Some businesses have come together in the last year or so to ask the Department of Justice for a trespass act, so that business owners can at least deal with security issues on their properties.

But even that won’t really solve the problem, said Karp.

“One of the issues that came up, was, if we start in our businesses to not allow these social problems to enter into businesses or the downtown core, where are they going to go? They’re just going to move to another location, and it’s going to cause problems in this other location.

“Which is what we’re seeing happening along the waterfront. The beautiful new wharf had, or recently had, graffiti on it, and some loitering going on there. And with the trolley passing through, with tourists and everything, it becomes an issue.”

A spokesperson for Justice confirmed that the department has met with members of the chamber about their request for a trespass act.

The department’s current priority is to draft a new Land Titles Act and a new Condo Act for tabling in the spring, according to the statement. “The request for trespass legislation will be considered when future legislative priorities are determined.”

Also, “persons or businesses may find there are applicable criminal code provisions available to address trespassing or loitering,” according to the email. “Generally, use of the those remedies require police involvement. There may also be common-law remedies obtained through the courts.”

Back in 2007 the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce produced a document, “Who’s minding your business?” with a checklist of things business owners can do to elevate the security of their properties.

There has been an increase in requests for that pamphlet in the last year or so, and the RCMP is also using it to help educate business owners, said Karp.

But the long-term fix will take much more, he said.

“Social issues have always been an issue and probably will stay here until we all make a determination to fix it.

“It’s almost like education. Education is a community effort. A child doesn’t just get educated by teachers, a child gets educated by the community.

“And these social issues will not be resolved by one department - Health and Social Services, or, Department of Justice putting people in jail. These issues will be resolved when the community steps up and works as a community to resolve these social issues.

“And I’m talking about businesses, governments, municipal governments, First Nations governments all working together to say, ‘How are we going to resolve this issue, how are we going to help resolve the social issues and the people who are in desperate need of assistance.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at