Mayor Henry Braun had ready answers for a concerned resident questioning why the city has been involved in a number of lawsuits over recent years – such as seeking a court order to shut down marijuana dispensaries, and the recent B.C. Supreme Court case challenge of a bylaw prohibiting camping in public places.
“If the law doesn’t mean anything … by definition, that’s chaos,” said Braun. “If you want to see what happens in those kind of societies, usually it means anarchy, which means, ‘I can go shoot somebody’… I don’t want to live in a town like that.”
The mayor continued, “In a perfect world, people would just obey the law … but unfortunately, in some cases we just find ourselves in that position and we have to defend or uphold our bylaws.”
He described a city beset by residents intent on challenging municipal bylaws, which has forced the city to often meet those challengers in court. Ideally, he’d prefer fewer of those challenges, so money spent on legal fees could instead go toward services.
According to city spokesperson Katherine Treloar, the total amount spent on legal fees by the city is not publicly reported, as the cost is spread between various departmental budgets. She said this information is available via freedom-of-information requests, a process which takes weeks or months.
The criticism was brought forward by local resident Rolf Van Nuys at the Nov. 2 council meeting, who criticized council for not revealing the city’s costs in fighting the recent B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit brought by a group of homeless people seeking to sleep in city parks. The decision on that case, issued on Oct. 21, was to allow overnight shelters on park land.
“[The fees] seem to be a secret for some reason I don’t understand,” said Van Nuys.
The News has sought this information through freedom-of-information requests, which were rejected as these legal fees were considered privileged legal information.