Harassment rooted in race, religion and gender to become illegal under Edmonton bylaw

Edmonton is prepared to get tough on harassment based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender identity, with an updated public places bylaw that makes harassment an offence.

Council’s community and public services committee agreed Wednesday to send the proposed amendments for a final vote at the next council meeting, which takes place Monday. 

Coun. Scott McKeen had suggested the changes in April, following a string of incidents in Edmonton where Muslim women were targets of public threats and assaults.

“We’re saying as a council, ‘That’s not our Edmonton,'” McKeen said during the meeting. 

McKeen said the amended bylaw sets a standard and sends a message.

“Because our Edmonton would suggest that that’s not right or fair or proper that some Edmontonians face racial discrimination or discrimination based on faith, gender identity, sexual orientation.” 

If the proposed bylaw passes, peace officers will be authorized to fine someone $250 for a first offence and double that for subsequent ones.

Under the amendments, harassment is defined as feeling tormented, troubled or badgered; or experiencing objectionable or unwelcome conduct, comment, bullying, or actions that could reasonably cause offence. 

Actions deemed an offence under the revised bylaw would be in relation to race, religious beliefs, colour, disability, age, marital status, family status, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. 

They could include a sexual solicitation or advance.

Administration said it had received input from the Anti-Racism Advisory Committee, the Edmonton Youth Council, the Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton Committee, and the City of Edmonton Accessibility Advisory Committee. 

Muslim council approves

The National Council of Canadian Muslims welcomed the development. 

Fatema Abdulla, a communications coordinator with the NCCM, said on Wednesday the council has been working with Edmonton counterparts and keeping a close eye in the wake threats and assaults against Muslim women earlier this year. 

Municipalities need to continue taking measures to create safer streets, she said in a phone interview. 

“This is definitely a positive step forward. Do we need more? Yes. Is it enough? No. But it is a critical step forward.” 

The four councillors who sit on the community and public services committee — Aaron Paquette, Mike Nickel, Jon Dziadyk and Andrew Knack — all agreed to send the amended bylaw to council for final approval on Monday.


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