Enforcing the bylaw governing taxi drivers, reconciliation and maintaining a visible presence downturn were some of the new priorities laid out for the city’s Municipal Enforcement Division.
City council conducted its annual review of its strategic priorities for both its municipal officers and its RCMP detachment during a governance and priorities committee meeting on Monday.
City administration noted the city’s large Indigenous population as a big reason to include working towards reconciliation as a priority for municipal enforcement officers in the upcoming year.
Currently, the city says municipal enforcement officers should prioritize communication, patrolling downtown and the city’s trials, and dealing with parking issues.
Councillor Niels Konge said that enforcement officers seem to only act when there is a complaint, and that MED has not made good on a previously stated priority for officers to be more reactive when they see issues, rather than waiting for a complaint.
Deputy Mayor Steve Payne said enforcement officers should be more proactive downtown and work with RCMP officers to enforce the Liquor Act, which bars people from carrying open containers of alcohol in public.
“I mean, we’re making small changes to the downtown. But I think until we address the elephant in the room, what’s gonna happen?” he said. “The public is calling for it. Every one of us have gotten complaints from the public about feeling unsafe downtown.”
Team lead for MED Const. Mitchell Roland said he’s working with a small team and implementing the priorities will be a balancing act. But Roland added MED has improved data collection to make it more focused and help officers
COVID-19 and the resulting closure of city facilities caused challenges to meeting some of those goals, including limiting the number of foot patrols in the downtown area. Enforcement officers did around 90 foot patrols in the city, compared to 85 the year before.
Councillor Julian Morse pointed to the results of the YWCA’s online taxi survey — which included reports of over 500 instances of woman in Yellowknife feeling unsafe in taxis — to say combatting sexual violence should be made a priority.
“There’s a lot of expressions from women in town that are feeling unsafe,” he said. “I think there’s some measures that can be put in place to make everybody feel safer.”
The city’s review of the Livery License Bylaw — which regulates taxi drivers in the city — is ongoing. The timeline of the project was pushed back because of staff changes, according to city administrator Sheila Bass-Kellett, with a reviewed version of the bylaw to be presented in the fourth quarter of 2021, rather than 2020.
Councillors also debated recommendations the city could make to the RCMP. City administration said in the meeting RCMP detachments regularly seek community input on what priorities should be.
Councillors recommended that the RCMP focuses on combating officer biases and sexual assault myths within the RCMP, improve visibility downtown and focus on enforcing territorial impaired driving laws.
Last year’s priorities were similar: a focus on patrolling downtown and the city’s trails, enforcement against impaired driving and strategies to combat impaired driving.
The addition of the sexual assault myths focus comes after a recent report from the Sexual Assault Investigations Review Committee that suggested some RCMP officers in the NWT require more training when it comes to dealing with sexual assault cases.
The recommendations will be voted on by council on May 10.