(This story has been updated since it was first posted Sept. 6, 2013.)
Park rangers were placed temporarily at Hillcrest, Killarney, Hastings, Kerrisdale, Kensington and Sunset recreation centres over the Labour Day long weekend as security following what Vision Vancouver park board vice-chair Aaron Jasper calls “harassing” behaviour by a board member of one of the six community centre associations suing the park board.
Jasper said the park rangers were brought in because the conflict is now affecting frontline staff. He couldn’t name the centre or board member but said there were two serious incidents during the long weekend, one of which resulted in park board general manager Malcolm Bromley calling the Vancouver Police Department to have the board member escorted off the property.
The VPD could not confirm the incident.
“Hopefully this was an isolated incident, but we have to make sure the well-being of our staff is being looked out for,” said Jasper. “As a result a WorkSafeBC investigation has been initiated because these workers are feeling unsafe and harassed.”
Jasper said the park rangers were pulled from the community centres as of Sept. 4.
Others close to the situation, including NPA commissioner Melissa De Genova, say there’s also been conflict between frontline staff and some members of the public over the use of the OneCard, a system-wide pass that was supposed to replace memberships at 22 of the city’s community centres this month. The six associations refused to accept the OneCard for their association-run programs because it eliminates the need for individual community centre association memberships and could limit their ability to raise money. According to the provincial Societies Act, the associations must have a membership list to qualify as a non-profit society. The associations say non-profit status is vital to their ability in obtaining government funding or grants. They argue the introduction of the pass is a demonstration of the park board’s plan to phase out the associations.
The case filed in B.C. Supreme Court by the six associations is broken into two parts. The first part, a request for an injunction against the OneCard, will be heard Sept. 18, 19 and 20. The second part of the case, scheduled for Nov. 18, 19 and 20, involves what the six associations call breaches of the current and interim joint-operating agreement. Of particular concern is proposed changes to the financial model under which they’ve worked for decades.
Jesse Johl, president of the Hillcrest-Riley Park Community Centre, said the conflicts between the public and staff come from the park board telling the public the cards could be used at all 22 centres, which was never the case. He said the statements upset both centre users who had already purchased membership cards, which typically cost between $10 and $15, and OneCard holders who assumed the pass was good at all 22 facilities.
Johl described the presence of park rangers at the centres a “fiasco.” He also denied the incident took place at Hillcrest.
“Our patrons are scared. A lot of people think they’re police officers and wonder why they’re there,” said Johl. “They wonder are my kids safe? Are seniors safe?”
Johl said frontline staff at the six community centres have been given little or incorrect information, which he said is leading to angry reactions from the public.
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