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Peterborough Police Chief, Stu Betts, showing proposed CCTV camera to council. Photo: Abbigale Kernya

Are White People Getting Enough Representation? City Hall Meets For General Committee

Written by
Abbigale Kernya
and
and
June 13, 2023
Are White People Getting Enough Representation? City Hall Meets For General Committee
Peterborough Police Chief, Stu Betts, showing proposed CCTV camera to council. Photo: Abbigale Kernya

Peterborough City Councillors met on June 12th for General Committee. On the agenda were seven reports for consideration.

Out of the seven reports for consideration, no councillors wished to speak on the December 31, 2022, unaudited financial report and the report on emergency measures to remediate Jackson Creek.

The December Financial Report outlines financial transfers to and from reserve funds from 2022. The remediation of Jackson Creek outlines the financial cost to clean the water in and around Jackson Creek, including the oil pollution in Little Lake. Both reports were received for information unanimously.

Acting Commissioner of Infrastructure and Planning, Michael Papadacos, and Peterborough’s Climate Change Specialist, James Byrne, began the meeting with a presentation outlining the progress made on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Byrne outlined the basics of greenhouse gases and the dangers of human-caused gases. He cited Peterborough’s alarming extended heat waves as an example of climate change as a result of excess greenhouse gases. 

“We are seeing it rise and it will only rise higher if greenhouse gases are not drawn down…climate change will become out of control,” he said.

Byrne also admitted Peterborough is seeing a spike in emissions due to the pandemic drastically lowering emissions during quarantine.

Papadacos stated that most of the emissions outlined in the report are “out of our hands…but 50% of community-caused emissions can at least be influenced.” 

He detailed the urgency to invest in better transit to reduce the use of single-vehicle occupancy, which is a massive contributor to emissions. 

Papadacos also stated that the municipal target of a 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is not attainable within the current rate of change happening within the city, and outlined a need to update the climate action plan.

Councillor Matt Crowley asked Papadacos why “was it unrealistic, that 45% target by 2030?” To which Papadacos responded that it was an ambitious goal to begin with, but now the focus staff has is how can the city become net zero emissions by 2050.

Councillor Alex Bierk asked both presenters “What more can we do as a municipality?” Outlining the lack of a climate focus on building plans being presented to council. Papadacos said funding is the easiest way to “ease challenges” before stating again the need for better transit.

Following discussion, the report was received unanimously.

The next report was presented by Police Chief, Stu Betts, about 12 proposed CCTV cameras to be installed around the downtown core, with the initial installation on the intersection of George Street and Aylmer Street, as the Peterborough Police’s Crime Analysts has listed them “high priority locations.” 

Proposed CCTV sites. Photo via Report CLSFS23-032

Notably, the report brought forth to council states that the presence of CCTV cameras does not replace the presence of officers, but rather assists investigators when a crime has been committed. 

Further along, however, it does state that “the role of police officers has evolved over the past several years and it has become increasingly challenging for officers to combat crime and public disorder.”—Effectively using CCTV cameras to replace police presence.

Councillor Dave Haacke—who has an impressive history of insensitive comments—asked Chief Betts with impeccable speed, why Wolfe Street is not on the proposed list of camera locations. Betts responded that “Wolfe Street is people's homes, and I cannot access that without a warrant, I don’t want to trample on people in their homes.” A concept seemingly lost on some councillors was that regardless of their situation, unhoused people are to be afforded the same rights as those who are housed. Additionally, Betts reminded council that the areas chosen for CCTV cameras have been identified as high-crime areas.

Haacke nevertheless continued the conversation in an unrelated direction and asked the Police Chief  “What do you do if someone is living in a bus shelter?” Chief Betts shared that if the situation arises, it is a fine line but bus shelters are technically public property. Haacke ended his inquiry by stating “That is a very interesting fine line.”

Councillor Alex Bierk raised concerns over the implementation of CCTV cameras besides  a Consumption and Treatment centre located on Simcoe Street—the most recent proposed site after the recent shooting death that occurred on Wolfe Street—asking Chief Betts about “The heavy burden of stigma attached [to substance use], isn’t there a fear that we are sort of limiting what that service can do with the people being surveilled?”

Chief Betts stated in response, “I appreciate it, but people are asking us for help. We are the police, we have a duty to uphold…we are there to provide that help.”

Haacke spoke again and asked Chief Betts if a resident facing Wolfe Street “Can have a personal camera trained on the encampment?” Chief Betts detailed a camera registry residents can fill out if they wish to share footage.

The vote to implement CCTV cameras passed unanimously.

The next report proposed a one-stop-shop customer service desk in City Hall to provide better customer service to Peterborough residents—effectively titled Service Peterborough—was also approved unanimously.  

The fourth report for consideration, The Home Energy Efficiency Program—a design formulated to support homeowners finance energy retrofits with the aim to decrease household emissions—was also approved unanimously.

Heavy debate took place in regard to the Queen Alexandra Community Centre (QACC), located at 180 Barnardo Avenue. Council members were tasked with approving a feasibility study into the proposed reconstruction of QACC—where the Activity Haven Senior Centre (AH) is located—to include affordable senior housing and maintain an activity centre for senior residents.

Built in 1890, Peterborough Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (PACAC) lists the building as a heritage site. Importantly, despite the feasibility report requiring all options to be explored, it heavily implies the demolition of the historic building. 

Councillor Bierk was the first to open the floor with his concerns regarding the route of demolition, stating he struggles with voting in favour of demolition not only because of the community importance of a deeply rooted historical building, but also because an “adapt and reuse” option is the most environmentally sustainable. 

“The greenest building is the one already standing,” said Bierk.

Community Service Commissioner, Sheldon Laidman, responded by noting that “a feasibility study would look at every option, including saving the building,” despite the fact that demolition, as outlined in the report, is the preconceived route regardless of concerns over sustainability and heritage preservation.

The current building as it stands is in need of an updated floor plan and accessibility features to accommodate the traffic AH sees, as pointed out by Councillor Kevin Duguay.

Councillor Joy Lachica also stated her concerns over the demolition of a heritage building, stating she “[wonders] why we’re talking about a feasibility study when we haven’t heard from PACAC?” and further asked if there was “Another way to preserve this without demolition being at the forefront?”

Interestingly, as Lachica pointed out, the report does not list the cost of demolition. It does, however, list the cost of repairs at $2.4 million. Lachica’s concern stemmed from the fact that because a major cost was absent from a proposal, it would not be in the best interest to move forward with said proposal without knowing the main financial implication. 

In response to the missing cost, Lachica moved to defer until the demolition cost is made clear and council has heard from PACAC—who was not consulted on the feasibility report—saying, “I find this problematic.” 

Nonetheless, Bierk and Lachica were the only two council members who voted in favour of the deferral. The main motion for a feasibility study into the demolition of QACC to build a senior residential building and activity centre was approved 9-2, with Bierk and Lachica voting against. 

The final report for consideration was the New Age-Friendly Peterborough Community Action Plan for 2023-2027.

The action plan would see older residents of Peterborough’s basic needs met, opportunities to participate in recreational activities, ensure seniors remain socially connected, and have mobility access updated to accommodate needs.

Councillor Bierk asked Age-Friendly Coordinator, Jayne Culbert, whether or not this plan has considered that Peterborough’s shelter use is largely occupied by seniors. Culbert in response, said “We as a community will work together to become more age-friendly” implying further advocacy for affordable housing.

Councillor Lachica asked to include urban Indigenous peoples in the report. The report currently includes a list of collaborative divisions such as infrastructure, Housing, Transportation, etc.

Lachica stated that within Peterborough, “There are access issues for elders and seniors who live off reserve…I raise it through their voices, it’s a missing voice in this and it’s an easy fix…we need to make sure we’re keeping up with legislation towards municipal reconciliation.”

To this, Councillor Duguay made a harrowing statement concerning silenced Indigenous voices by pointing out that not every transportation group was included in the report, saying “The report would be 3000 pages long [if we included everyone].”

Councillor Riel also seconded his colleague, stating that Scottish and Irish groups are not specifically included either, asking “Are we spreading ourselves too thin?...what path are we going down here?”

Notably, only one of the aforementioned groups is oppressed and targeted within the country built on their stolen land—a land with a long-history of colonial values and violence that still continues today.

Mayor Jeff Leal then moved to defer the amendment to include urban Indigenous peoples until council receives feedback from other county colleagues. 

The age-friendly plan passed unanimously, with the deferral to be brought back to council later this year.

In other business, Councillor Gary Baldwin brought forth a motion to implement a policy to manage graffiti within the city, stating “It reflects poorly on the branding of the city.”

It passed unanimously.

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