Whitehorse city councillor Roslyn Woodcock says the Yukon Human Rights Commission has concerns over the city’s proposed bullying bylaw. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Whitehorse council backs off anti-bullying bylaw

Critics worry the bill could curb free speech and promote racial profiling

A newly proposed bylaw has been referred back to city staff for further review before council will consider it.

At the regular council meeting on June 11, Coun. Roslyn Woodcock read the details of the community standards bylaw, which is intended to address bulling behaviours in city facilities and on the bus.

“The purpose of this bylaw is to promote the safety, health and welfare of people at city amenities by proscribing certain anti-social behaviour not otherwise covered by the Criminal Code of Canada, other legislation, or judicial review,” reads the bylaw.

Woodcock was the first to say she wanted to see the bylaw referred back to staff for amendments before council considered it. She pointed out that the Yukon Human Rights Commission has concerns about it as it stands.

The bylaw determines bullying as repeated behaviour that is meant to cause, or should have been known to cause “fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress, or other forms of harm to another person’s feelings, self-esteem, or reputation,” is meant to create a negative environment for another person, is any objectionable or inappropriate comment, conduct, or display by a person, excludes at all times “nuisance behaviour,” or causes or is likely to cause emotional distress. This is defined as including verbal ridicule, taunts, teasing, name calling, put downs, and repeated abusive behaviour.

The YHRC did not respond to calls for comment, but Woodcock summarized its concerns.

“The bylaw might infringe on guaranteed freedoms under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (and) the freedom of speech,” said Woodcock. “It raises the potential for racial profiling, and may infringe on property and privacy rights.”

A motion was made to amend the bylaw after having it reviewed by city staff.

Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu seconded the motion to amend.

Coun. Rob Fendrick was also in favour of a potential amendment.

“I look forward to being educated on this,” he said. “I mean, we’re trying to influence behaviour in a way that would be positive, we hope, which would be anti-bullying and maybe this is a blunt instrument so I’ll look forward to being educated on what might be more appropriate. But in the final analysis I would like to see bullying mitigated, and given our best efforts, whatever form that may take.”

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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