One would think that distributing food, clothing, and toiletries to those in dire need would be a good thing. Ah, but not so in the City of Oshawa, Ont., which bears the slogan, “Prepare to be amazed.”
Alas, the “amazement” these days would appear to be for all the wrong reasons – at least when it comes to volunteerism.
Case in point: on Sunday, volunteers with a group called Communities for Freedom distributed clothes, toiletries, and food to the homeless people who tend to converge around Memorial Park.
But they did so under duress. Prior to this event, the group was sternly warned that being a Good Samaritan is not something the city tolerates – even just days before Christmas. Indeed, these volunteers were warned that if they carried out their plan to help the homeless, bylaw officers would be on hand to ticket them.
Ashley Wickett, who heads up Communities for Freedom, said she received an email from an Oshawa bylaw enforcement officer last Thursday warning her that the city “may issue Administrative Monetary Penalties to any or all individuals involved in the organizing of the event or distribution.”
The email referenced the city’s parks and facilities bylaw, which prohibits holding a public gathering in a park without a permit and selling or distributing goods in a park.
Wickett says she thought her group of volunteers might get around this stipulation by distributing the items from their cars. But when she mentioned this to City of Oshawa officials, she was told that this plan would be in violation of Oshawa’s highway vending bylaw.
“At this time you may not proceed with your proposed event,” stated an email from a bylaw enforcement officer. “If you wish to contribute to the less fortunate, particularly around this time of year, there are a number of established charities and shelters in the area who would no doubt benefit from your compassion and initiative.”
Even with the threat of monetary fines, Wickett, a single mother of two, along with the other volunteers, visited the park on Sunday afternoon nevertheless.
Of note, two bylaw enforcement vehicles were already there, presumably awaiting their visit. Oddly, upon the arrival of a Rebel News reporter and videographer, the bylaw officers quickly left the area without ever getting out of their vehicles. They did, however, circle back and take photos of the volunteers; it remains to be seen if these individuals will be served tickets via mail or email in the days ahead.
Let’s hope this is not the case. People helping the less fortunate deserve to be lauded – not slapped with a fine as though they were doing something wrong.