Blog: I refuse to praise the BCA for finally growing a conscience

Chris Campbell

The mood was ebullient Monday night in Burnaby council chambers - for good reason.

Council made a positive step forward after unanimously passing a motion directing staff to formulate a plan to establish a warming centre in each of the city’s four quadrants and a temporary emergency shelter as soon as possible. (You can read the full story here.)

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I was excited too as I sat at home reading the tweets from our council reporter, Kelvin Gawley.

And then Coun. Pietro Calendino had to ruin it all by opening his mouth.

“It’s not humane to leave people out in these kinds of conditions,” said Calendino after introducing the motion.

Oh, really, Pietro?

It’s not “humane” to let people suffer like this? That’s really funny coming from you because during all of the years that you and the rest of the Burnaby Citizens Association politicians had a stranglehold on decision-making in our city, it never seemed to bother any of you enough to get this done.

No, it took the election of a new mayor, Mike Hurley, to get you and the rest of the BCA cabal to grow conscience.

The complete and utter hypocrisy of that statement is staggering.

That was the general reaction from people who heard about Monday’s decision – what the heck took you all so long to do the right thing?

A tweet by Fergus McCann - @fergorama – summed it up best: “After all these years as MLA and councillor Pietro now thinks it’s ‘not humane’. In Derek’s absence he’s found his own spine. What a sad man.”

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A tweet by @fergorama about council's decision. - SCREENSHOT

Perhaps the BCA members of council will be surprised that people are criticizing them after doing the right thing, but you can’t ignore a problem year after year (after year after year after…) and then suddenly expect credit.

Maybe it was because ex-mayor Derek Corrigan ruled with an iron fist that nothing got done, but the group as a collective could have shown some backbone and got this done years ago. After all, Corrigan was just one vote. Or maybe some or all of them just didn’t care.

Who knows? The fact is, virtually nothing got done to help the homeless before Hurley and Green Coun. Joe Keithley got elected.

It is true that since 2005, Burnaby has had an extreme weather shelter open at Westminster Bible Chapel on Sixth Street (with Burnaby Alliance Church serving as a backup) on the coldest and wettest nights. But that shelter has only been open when temperatures drop below freezing or during prolonged inclement weather.

And it was only located in one corner of a vast city.

The inconsistency of that shelter failed to serve the needs of many of Burnaby’s homeless, according to Karen O’Shannecary, with Burnaby’s Society to End Homelessness. 

“It could be open one night, when temperatures hovered around -2 C, but closed the next if the thermometer rose to 2 C,”according to our story in Friday’s edition.

Look, I’m glad this is finally happening. I’m also glad that a temporary shelter that’s open 24 hours a day is next on the list, followed by a permanent shelter.

All of those things are good to hear. But I refuse to applaud the BCA councillors for their decision.

Not yet.

It’s going to take time for my anger at their years of inaction to die down. They’re going to have to work harder to earn my respect on this particular file. Perhaps a mea culpa from councillors - instead of them acting like their inaction previously wasn't an affront to humanity.

That would work for me.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter and Instagram @shinebox44

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