City of Calgary introduces street harassment bylaw amendment

The City of Calgary announced it will not tolerate street harassment in the city with a new amended bylaw.

The amended Public Behaviour Bylaw, which restricts harassment of another person in a public space, goes into effect on Wednesday. Calgarians will be able to report instances of street harassment in public spaces (restaurants, sidewalks, libraries, etc.) for investigation, and an offence of the bylaw carries a $500 fine.

Read more: City council adds street harassment to Calgary’s public behaviour bylaw

According to a Tuesday morning press release, harassment is defined as communication with a person in a way that could reasonably cause offence or humiliation. This includes conduct, comment or action that refers to a person’s:

  • Race
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Source of income
  • Family status
  • Gender, gender identity or gender expression
  • Sexual orientation

It also includes sexual solicitation and advances.

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“Street harassment is a cultural, systemic and an intergenerational issue that has been a part of society for a long time,” Aalika Kohli, the city’s business strategist for community standards, told reporters on Tuesday.

“The City of Calgary understands that this bylaw is not (the entire solution) and we cannot resolve street harassment overnight… We are looking at other measures.”

Kohli also said the bylaw is a good deterrent for street harassment and noted there will be more “eyes on the street.”

“These incidents will be reported that will lead to investigations that will lead to fines… There will be consequences for this kind of behaviour,” Kohli said.

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Chief Bylaw Officer Ryan Pleckaitis said there will be enforcement challenges but the bylaw sends an important message to Calgarians that the city is open and welcoming.

“These cases will be investigated like any other bylaw infraction,” Pleckaitis said. “There might also be environments where police are present and the bylaw will be easier to enforce.

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The City of Calgary is also pursuing membership with the UN Women’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Program, a global initiative that aims to improve the city’s ability to address harassment. The city said more information will be made available soon.

Efforts to increase public awareness are also underway, including an ad campaign encouraging Calgarians to be aware of their own safety and the safety of others this summer.

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