Students protest outside Courtenay city hall for climate action on March 15th, 2019. Photo by James Wood/98.9 The Goat/Vista Radio
COURTENAY, B.C- Tomorrow’s climate strike protest may not be marching around downtown Courtenay.
On Monday afternoon, Courtenay city council discussed a request from Youth Environmental Action for road closures in the city’s downtown core on Friday afternoon. The group was behind a recent climate strike protest held at the community’s city hall in recent weeks, as well as a meeting with the Valley’s elected leadership.
According to the information brought up at council, staff had received an email from the group on April 23rd in advance of the latest planned event, which is another strike at Courtenay city hall. The group’s event posting on social media has indicated it will be taking place at 1 p.m.
“The Group is requesting a road closure permit to hold a demonstration march on Friday, May 3, 2019 starting at City Hall and moving west up 8th Street to England Avenue, then heading north along England Avenue to 5th Street, then turning east bound down to Cliffe Avenue and heading southbound back to City Hall where the march terminates,” read the report given to council.
The city’s Public Works department handles closure permits, and traffic control plans.
“The minimum road closure submission period is ten working days prior to the event,” read the city report.
“This informal request does not meet that requirement. The ten days are necessary to review and coordinate measures that are necessary to mitigate the City’s risk and liability. A request of this magnitude would result in eight hours of staff time. Duties would range from working with the Communication Manager in drafting public notices and developing a communications strategy, to scheduling Public Works employees and contracting flaggers. A traffic control plan would also need to be developed (typically submitted by applicant), and this plan would also have to include the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure due to the proximity and impact on their roads by closing the 5th and Cliffe intersection.”
The report stated that there were more complications to the process, given that the march needed closures of signalized intersections.
“Only the RCMP can legally close signalized intersections and this would entail consultation with the RCMP on their ability, schedule and resources,” read the report.
“The estimated cost of this type of closure is approximately $3,500, not including staff time. Currently, the City’s budget is resourced with funds to account for the Canada Day celebration and two (2) DCBIA road closures (Halloween and Christmas). The operating budget is neither sufficient nor intended to be used for public demonstrations.”
During council discussion on the matter, all councillors agreed that the plan for a march as it stood couldn’t be accommodated. Councillor Will-Cole Hamilton proposed the finding of a “middle ground” such as the staging of the event at the Courtenay courthouse lawn and using nearby streets and sidewalks for the march.
Councillor David Frisch believed that “a little bit of inconvenience” was what the strikers were going for.
“It does seem too late to have a road closure at this point,” said Frisch.
“I think it would be just fine for them to do it on the sidewalks. I’m sure somebody will be in contact with them at some point, it’ll be obvious without a road closure they’re probably not going to walk in the streets. I think it’s interesting what they’re working on. I don’t think we really need to do anything with this at this point, I wouldn’t expect us to put too much effort into it other than show up if you want to support it.”
Council eventually voted to direct staff to contact the group, and inform them that the proposed road closures for their march were not recommended given the circumstances. Staff were also directed to work with the organizers provide alternative options, without the need for closures.
The MyComoxValleyNow.com newsroom reached out to the strike organizers, who confirmed they will still be at City Hall, and still heading into the streets.
“I believe we will still go on the streets, as otherwise our message is a bit lost,” said Nalan Goosen, an organizer with Youth Environmental Action.
“We won’t be marching against the traffic but rather with it.”