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Monday, June 16, 2008

A pyrrhic victory for Vancouver churches

Shotgun readers may remember that a few months ago, I posted on the efforts of Vancouver's Tenth Avenue Alliance Church to protect its outreaches to the poor from Vancouver city bureaucrats who were not convinced that it was part of the role of a church (or any similar religious body) to minister to the needy.

Well, in the run-up to municipal elections, the ostensibly small-c conservative government of Vancouver has decided to acknowledge that it can be part of the role of a church to help the disadvantaged. Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, who failed in his efforts to be renominated for another term as mayor, even took pains to announce this on the steps of Holy Rosary Cathedral downtown. But, as reporter Jim Coggins notes, the devil is in the details.

While the city has agreed that churches will not need "special use permits" for their programs to help the poor, a new "Administrative Bulletin" for interpreting the policy cited in the above story allows the city bureaucrats to step in if any "problems" arise with neighbours. Programs "should be" restricted to church buildings and grounds and food programs will have to abide by health bylaws. Also, any church applying for a building permit will have to explain any new help-the-poor programs that they have in mind in their rezoning permits, allowing the city to cite these plans in any rezoning decision that they make.

I am hopeful that Vancouver bureaucrats don't have time to act as the "Free Sandwich Police". That said, I do need to note that whatever a government can regulate, it can stop, well-meaning words from a mayor aside.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on June 16, 2008 in Municipal Politics | Permalink

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