Smoking bylaw revised

It won’t be the bar owner’s responsibility make smokers butt out, according to proposed changes to the city’s no-smoking bylaw…

It won’t be the bar owner’s responsibility make smokers butt out, according to proposed changes to the city’s no-smoking bylaw presented to council Tuesday.

Charges will be laid by bylaw officers, who will also be responsible for enforcing the rules.

The bylaw, which prohibits smoking in public places, like restaurants and bars, was sent back to the rewrite desk after it failed to hold up to scrutiny in Yukon court.

And charges against the three bars found in violation of the bylaw — the Capital Hotel, the 98 Hotel and Sam McGee’s Bar and Grill at the 202 Motor Inn — will be dropped.

Charges against individuals will proceed, said mayor Ernie Bourassa.

“That part of the bylaw will not be affected; we are well within our rights to continue on those cases,” he added.

But one man charged with violating the bylaw says that’s not fair.

“If there’s a flaw in the bylaw then all charges should be dropped,” Ron Fox told council Tuesday.

By not dropping the charges council is taking a “hard line against citizens,” said councillor Mel Stehelin, who agreed that all charges relating to the bylaw should be dropped.

Currently, an individual violation carries a $100 penalty.

Under the amendments, proprietors cannot be charged for not enforcing the bylaw.

But they won’t get off scot-free, said Bourassa.

“If an officer goes into a place sees smoke, they can charge the proprietor for allowing smoking.”

And that would carry a $300 penalty for the first offence, $500 for the second and $700 for the third.

The changes are modeled after a similar law in Vancouver, which has been challenged and proved strong through both the BC Supreme Court and the BC Court of Appeal.

Problems arose because the city misinterpreted the law right off the bat.

When the bylaw was first introduced in 2003, the city thought it had the power to delegate responsibility for enforcing the bylaw to business owners, explained Bourassa.

 “And, rather than go to court, we are going to amend the bylaw so there is no delegation of responsibility.”

Another proposed change will crack down on smoking within three metres of a doorway.

Although the changes are a step in the right direction, the city hopes the Yukon government will step up to the plate and declare the territory smoke free.

“I think it’s high time the territorial government came in with a territory-wide ban on smoking,” said Bourassa, citing similar bans in other jurisdictions such as Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.

“We’re one of the last jurisdictions in the country that doesn’t have one,” Bourassa added.

Council will vote on the changes next week.

Bourassa hopes to have the new rules in effect by Rendezvous. (LC)

PUBLIC SAFETY

Whitehorse to reveal

Firesmart plan

This year, Whitehorse is getting serious about forest fires.

The boreal forest west of the city has been a growing harbinger of fiery doom for many years.

Boreal forest needs to burn as part its life cycle, and a major burn in the Whitehorse area is long overdue.

So the city is launching a comprehensive Firesmart plan.

“The purpose of the plan is landscape-level forest fuel modification, with the objective of reducing the risk of  high intensity, widespread crown fires intruding into the subdivisions of the planning area,” said David Loeks, proprietor of TransNorthern Management Consulting, which holds a Firesmart consulting contract.

“Ember throw from such fires could overwhelm fire suppression capabilities and cause widespread loss of homes,” Loeks said Tuesday in an e-mail interview.

“This kind of forest fuel management complements the within-the-community Firesmart work that has been the focus in the territory up to now.”

The boundaries of the area Loeks is targeting are Fish Lake Road to the north, Mount Sima Road to the south, the Alaska Highway to the east and the Copper Haul Road to the west.

Piggybacking on the 2002 Firesmart plan, the new strategy involves cutting “lines of fuel discontinuity” around neighbourhoods accessed by major roadways like Hamilton Boulevard, the Alaska Highway and Fish Lake Road.

Dense stands of spruce and pine tress will be thinned to allow for mixed forests capable of safely containing ground fires without turning them into crown fires, according to Leoks’ plan.

He is organizing a public information meeting at Elijah Smith Elementary School at 7 p.m. on Thursday January 26.

“Whitehorse is in the medium-high, high-extreme risk of houses being damaged if a wildfire comes through,” said Whitehorse fire chief Clive Sparks.

“It’s really important that people know about Firesmart and the work that’s being looked at for their community.” (GM)

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