Should DNV force homeowners to clear snow?

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
December 1, 2018
442 words

As the North Shore prepares for the first snow of the season residents of the District of North Vancouver are once again questioning why the District refuses to require homeowners to clear the sidewalks in front of their property.

Both the City of North Vancouver and the District of West Vancouver have bylaws in place that make property owners responsible for clearing sidewalks. The City is succinct is saying “The owner or occupier of any real property shall remove any accumulation of snow, and ice from the sidewalks and footpaths.”

West Vancouver is more specific, requiring snow clearing within twenty-four hours or before accumulations reach 10 cm. Even though neither municipality commonly tickets homeowners, the bylaws do give them the opportunity to encourage residents to break out their shovels and salt buckets.

The current District bylaw forces businesses and multi-unit complexes to clear snow, but excludes the owners of single-family homes. When the District last discussed amending their snow removal bylaws the argument from then Mayor Richard Watson was that the District didn’t want to fine seniors or people with disabilities who have difficulty shovelling snow, homeowners who are away on vacation, and the owners of vacant homes awaiting demolition.

Amy Amantea, the chair of the North Shore Advisory Committee on Disability Issues points out that uncleared sidewalks are especially hazardous to people living with various disabilities “who are greatly affected by winter snowfalls.

“When sidewalks and bus stops are not accessible, people with disabilities are many times trapped in their homes. This creates a barrier to people with disabilities getting to work, medical appointment and social activities causing a significant risk to their effecting gainful employment, health and wellbeing.” she says.

Amantea also says that despite being legally blind “I shovel my sidewalk diligently every snowfall. I get outside early in the morning and shovel my driveway and the sidewalk in front of both my home and my neighbours, because they just don’t. It’s a funny thing when you look up my hilly street, Highland Blvd, and notice that mine is the only sidewalk that is shoveled for as far as the eye can see. “

New District Mayor Mike Little is promising to revisit the question. “It hasn’t come up yet, and wasn’t featured in the election, but I will bring it up.”

Even if the District currently has no way to force homeowners to clear sidewalks, Little goes on to promise that the District will be monitoring developers building in the District.

“The District expects all construction projects to keep their sidewalks free and clear of obstructions, including the prompt removal of snow and ice through the winter season.”

School Board to continue policy of no anonymous complaints

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
December 1, 2018
549 words

The newly elected North Vancouver School Board has voted to approve a new process for handling parent complaints about School Board employees, processes, and materials, but after a lengthy discussion decided to continue the District’s policy of not accepting anonymous complaints.

The updated Policy 406 is the result of work done through 2017 by a committee of parents, educators, and administrators, and aims to provide more clarity for parents while protecting complainants from retribution.

Director of Instruction Arlene Martin explained that the new Policy removes the word “complaint” from its title and replaces it with “concerns” and was intended to include a “problem solving orientation.” Including parents and students in the language of the policy was considered important.

Under the new policy a parent concern will be handled through a five stage process, with the goal being to handle concerns as “near to the source as possible.”

Parents will be expected to begin by presenting their concern to the teacher or employee involved. According to Martin the goal is to provide a response to parents within five days. If the parent isn’t happy with the result they can escalate the complaint to the Principal of the school, then to the Director of Instruction for their family of schools. From there they can submit a written complaint to the Assistant Superintendent, then to the Superintendent.

If all of these fail to satisfy the parent or student, and if the concern “affects the education, health, or safety” of a student, parents can give a written Notice of Appeal to the Board of Education.

Trustee Cyndy Gerlach asked why the new policy specifically rules out anonymous complaints. Gerlach said “I struggle with this. As a school district we have a whistle-blower line. Any employee can make an anonymous compliant at any time. So why is the same affordability not provided to parents?”

Martin explained that this was discussed at length during several meetings before it was decided to retain that sentence. The committee members felt that the risk of damage that could be caused by unfounded anonymous complaints was sufficient to exclude them. Instead they adopted language to explicitly protect students and parents from retribution.

Gerlach asked why the school district would not allow anonymous complaints when it is possible to file an a anonymous complaint with the Ministry of Children and Family when there is a suspicion of child abuse.

She is concerned that some parents will not make a complaint if they cannot do it anonymously, and that the five step process would lock parents into dealing with problem teachers before being allowed to escalate complaints.

Gerlach felt that “there are some times when the breakdown is so significant that (parents) can’t talk to the teacher” and worries that that the Principal could refuse to escalate the complaint if parents refuse to talk to the teacher.

Trustee Megan Higgins admitted to having trouble imagining a situation where an anonymous complaint could be made given that any complaint would be about a student situation, and Trustee Mary Tasi Baker clarified that while Social Services may maintain confidentiality when accepting child related complaints, it was not an anonymous process. District staff assured the Board that parents always have the option of entering the complaints process at the point that is most comfortable.