Nelson city council to update banner policy

Council will revisit the wording of the policy at its December meeting

An online petition has sped up the city’s plans to amend the its policy governing the banner that often spans the 300 block of Baker Street.

The petition addresses the anti-abortion banner that hung above the street for a week before was taken down on Wednesday. It was taken down, according to city staff, because the time period for which it had been rented had expired.

The banner read, “Respect all life from conception to a natural death.”

The petition on Change.org includes the statement, “As I walk down the street, the banner is telling me that I do not respect life because of the beliefs that I hold. Implicit in the banner’s message is one that shames others. For that reason alone, it needs to go.”

Council will revisit the wording of the policy at its December meeting, Mayor Deb Kozak told the Star in an interview on Wednesday.

“The banner is supposed to be used for advertising events that are community-building,” she said. “It is not for personal opinion, political opinion, or religious opinion.”

The current policy states: “The City will erect banners to advertise events or activities taking place in the City at the Baker Street or Civic Centre location.”

The policy goes on to state that there is a fee of $100 “to be paid to the city by the group, club or organization, provided the event is taking place locally and there is local participation by the supporting group, club, or organization and the event has a community-wide focus and is not discriminatory.”

The word “event” is used many times in the existing policy to describe the desired content of the banner.

In response to the suggestion that the existing policy’s focus on the word “event” and the stipulation that the banner not be discriminatory make the bylaw enforceable now, without updating it, Kozak said some groups have successfully argued that there are events connected to the content of their banner, even though those events are not specifically mentioned.

Kozak said the policy has been in place for many years and has long been on a list of policies that need updating.

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