Canada is a nation of generosity; of helping those less fortunate and championing equality.
It’s also a place that regards municipal property permits with the same esteem as the Magna Carta, which is what a group of Calgarians found out recently while exercising the former three virtues.
The crew of do-gooders are members of a grassroots organization called YYC Helping Homeless, a roughly 1,800-member collective that does literally as their name suggests. Every Saturday, they prepare warm food and serve it to between 50 and 100 people in need on a small patch of grass near the Calgary Drop-In Centre.
“The main thing we bring is a lot of love. We know people by name, we know their stories, we give them hugs,” said YYCHH donation coordinator Danielle Stewart.
Unfortunately for Stewart and the rest of the YYCHHT clan, not even love and hugs are exempt from petty government regulation. Last Saturday, four (!) bylaw officers stopped by the event to hand down a heavy dose of administrative nonsense, informing them that they need proper permits to carry out their altruism on city property.
The group will need to pay $26.50 to apply for a “recurring event” permit on top of $50.50 for each subsequent event. Given that they pay for all expenses – food, gas, toiletries, warm clothes – out of pocket, weekly donations to the Bank of Bureaucracy would effectively bankrupt their operation.
“There are policies in place — and I understand that they serve a purpose — but this isn’t really about policies, it’s about people,” said Stewart, very sensibly. “We’re certainly hoping the city will look at the fairness of asking people to pay to help our vulnerable people.”
That hope rests on a “conversation” the city would like to have with YYCHHT about the matter after the bylaw officers told Stewart, “If you don’t call us back, we’re going to call you back.” Stewart did, in fact, call back – three times – but was met by silence on the other end, presumably because the receiver was tied to its stand by some sort of red tape.