The City of Campbell River says it’s not trying to stifle discussion, but that it will also be reviewing its booking policies after a room booking was canceled at the Community Centre on Monday night, causing a rally in support of forestry workers to happen in the parking lot.
The Sierra Club of BC and Wilderness Committee were set to host a series of presentations entitled “Forests: A Climate for Change” at the facility, but the event was canceled by the city at the last minute after consultation with the RCMP, the city says.
“We recognize that many people had good intentions for the event last night and are upset that it was cancelled,” Ron Bowles, the city’s general manager of community development said on Tuesday. “For them, this was an unpopular decision, but our first duty is public safety,” adding, “it wasn’t a decision made lightly, that’s for sure.”
Bowles says the city just simply didn’t have the manpower to provide adequate security for the event once they realized, too late, what the expected number of attendees would be.
“We understand that the organizers hoped to host a peaceful discussion, and we are sorry for the disappointment,” Bowles says. “We will work with them to book a future event with appropriate security plans for large numbers of people. Forestry jobs and environmental protection are urgent concerns for our community, supporting livelihoods and local quality of life. City facilities can provide a public space where people can gather, share information and have important discussions. And, for every event in city facilities, our top priority is to ensure safe and respectful behaviour.
“I want to make it clear that it was the city that cancelled it,” Bowles continues. “They were happy to proceed. It’s unfortunate that the message that was out there that it was them who wanted to cancel it, because we understand that they wanted to continue to hold the event.”
Mayor Andy Adams says this cancellation, along with a previous event surrounding an anti-abortion speaker and counter rally at the Sportsplex earlier this month, have led to some “reconsideration in terms of our facility booking policy.”
“That event didn’t play into the decision last night – that was dealt with on an independent basis – but I will say that when we’re having the discussion of reviewing our booking policy procedures, that did come into play.”
Some considerations being made in terms of that review, Adams says, will be what the organization booking the facility’s responsibilities will be to provide security for their event.
“What’s being suggested is that people will provide their own security and if RCMP is required as part of the booking, they would be culpable for the costs involved,” Adams says. “We had five RCMP officers on duty for the entire city last night, so if the numbers that were being speculated had actually materialized, there’s no way we would have been able to control that situation.”
There were also reports of the rallying forestry workers outside the Community Centre being issued parking tickets by city bylaw officers Monday night.
“Our bylaw office has a contract with Robbins Parking to ticket people that are in contravention,” Bowles says. “One of the companies, I understand, brought a couple of logging trucks down to the event early, and our officers would have had no knowledge of the reason they were there, just that they were parked illegally, and as such, were issued tickets.”
But Adams says the city won’t enforce those fines.
“We’re not going to follow through on that,” Adams says. “We’ll just dismiss and waive all of those. The people writing those tickets would not have been privy to all the discussions that were going on, and we appreciate that it wasn’t the right thing to do and just heightens the anxiety even further.”
But Adams also says he believes staff made the right decision in cancelling the event.
“We, as council, were not involved in the decision making,” Adams says. “We were informed when the event was canceled. Having said that, after being briefed, I’m fully supportive of the decision that was made.”