Should Fernie be under surveillance?

Fernie City Hall. - N. Obre
Fernie City Hall.
— image credit: N. Obre

The question that seems to be on a lot of people's minds: should Fernie be under surveillance?

Business owners, council members and the public have been debating this issue for some time now, but following through with a decision is still in the works.

After a long discussion during the May 26 council meeting, Fernie council voted to postpone consideration on the surveillance camera motion until June 9.

But some councillors are getting impatient with this indecisiveness.

"We need to move in one direction or the other," Councillor Joe Warshawsky said.

If the city decided to move forward with the installation of cameras in the downtown core, they will need to send a business proposal to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia (OIPC).

Fernie residents were given a chance to voice their opinion when the city sent out two surveys, one in November and one in May.

The November survey showed that of the nearly 30 responses from downtown merchants, 82 per cent were in support of installing the cameras, Director of Corporate Administrative Services Michelle Martineau said.

But other public responses suggest that a lot of Fernie residents don't want them.

They believe they will portray Fernie as an unsafe place and the videos won't deter vandalism and wouldn't hold up in a court of law, Martineau said.

And some council members agree.

"They're likely to be ineffective," Councillor Randal Macnair said.

"I really want us to think carefully about the fact that the majority of people in Fernie don't want them," added Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano.

"If that many people don't want them then maybe we should start paying some attention."

But a decision is yet to be made.

"I don't say it lightly that we should abandoned this, I'm saying we should really give it serious consideration," Giuliano said.

"If a lot of people have a strong feeling pro or con, they need to let us know."

Some councillors said they have already received some public feedback aside from the surveys.

Despite being approached by several business owners who want to move forward with the installation of a video surveillance system, only two members of council support the motion.

Councillor Dan McSkimming question why, if the majority of council is against the motion, the city is still debating this issue.

"Why would we go forward and do more work on it if at the end of it we're not going to vote in favor of it?" McSkimming asked.

Discussion of the issue will continue at the June 9 council meeting.

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