Law firm blesses Mosquito devices

Sound devices target school vandals

A legal opinion regarding Mosquito devices on Vancouver School Board property dismisses concerns their use violates human rights. The anti-loitering units emit a sound that annoys young people. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association argues Mosquitoes unfairly target a specific age group and the school district should find a more appropriate and more effective way to deal with vandalism.

The VSB sought a legal opinion from the legal firm of Harris and Company. The opinion states: "Assuming that access to school property during the night is not a service customarily made available to any member of the public, there doesn't appear to be any basis for a complaint of discrimination under the Human Rights Code-

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"The rights and freedoms of the Charter (including the right to free assembly) are subject to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. If the board were to adopt a bylaw or other board policy with regard to the use of the device, this should meet the definition of 'reasonable limits prescribed by law.'"

The opinion was noted in a staff report at Tuesday night's planning and facilities committee, which also included clearance from Vancouver Coastal Health to use the devices as long as certain criteria are met. The health authority says the device as it is currently used should create no harmful effects, while suggesting the VSB implement "good neighbour practices" and identify the location of the units and distances from residences. The authority recommends the district consider the expertise of acoustic consultants for education and advice on use of the device.

The planning and facilities committee agreed by consensus to recommend the board adopt new policy on the use of antiloitering devices, which specifies installation and consultative requirements. The recommendation will be voted on at the board's June 18 meeting.

The recommended policy notes each school is unique and not all security measures will apply to all schools. It further states antiloitering devices may be considered in situations of chronic vandalism, but the school principal's support must be obtained first and the principal must consult with parents, staff, the parent advisory council and neighbours. The device should be installed according to the manufacturer's guidelines in a way that produces the greatest benefit to reducing loitering without affecting neighbours. The units can be operated between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., signs must be installed indicating that the school grounds are closed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and that the site might have an anti-loitering device in place.

noconnor@vancourier.com Twitter: @Naoibh

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