My name is Dennis Labrecque. I was born in Alberta in 1949 and all I have ever known is peace. My rights as a Canadian were assumed to be a given and I never thought much about it until recently when these rights were challenged.
My wife and I fist attended Street church a couple of years ago and since, have become regulars. Street church is a perfect outlet to serve the community by helping to feed, clothe, and nurture the homeless. The Street people are a segment of society which many of us do not know how to deal with. These are human beings who have fallen through the cracks for various reasons. Those can include mental or physical illness, abuse, loss of job, bankruptcy, discouragement. Any of these disasters can throw our lives into a tailspin of despair and hopelessness. How many of us are just struggling to hang on financially, or hanging on to marriage by a thread?
Can any of us honestly say that we haven’t experienced addiction, divorce, disease, or some other form of tragedy either in our families or right within our homes? If we are honest with ourselves, it only takes one major event to devastate your life.
Have any of you wondered why Streetchurch has come under so much opposition from our City Officials? Calgary is known for its tolerance and generosity. We barricade off large portions of 17th Avenue for loud Flames parties. Our city police show up in great numbers to support these and maintain law and order. We separate out portions of downtown Calgary for gay parades during business hours. We pride ourselves in allowing all kinds of outdoor drinking parties for a full two weeks during the Stampede. The zoo, a city owned facility, leases space for the loudest imaginable parties which go well into the wee morning hours.
If we embrace all these events, why has Street Church been singled for aggression? Why the hostility directed towards us the by the city? What is with the____ tickets that have been given to Streetchurch? They are given for multiple reasons such as: Make available, offer or give away free good and services in the park, attracting a crowd in a park, using a public tree to secure and object, Placing a sign in a park, Causing objectionable noise, Operating an amplification system. We carefully monitor sound levels to keep them within the legal decibel range. Streetchurch events occur mostly in parks which are already used by the homeless, we are not after new territory. Most events occur after business hours and never go beyond 9:00pm in the evening.
We have been threatened by food inspection officers and they have found no fault. The city sends out bylaw officers to constantly take photos, give us tickets for amplification, some for parking in deserted places after hours.
Should we be asking Mayor Bronconier why Streetchurch has been singled out? Personally, I have felt so violated and wondered why until I came across a little book from the immigration office called "A Look at Canada".
This booklet is required to become a Canadian Citizen. It tells about what it means to be Canadian, how to become one, and the privilege’s you are to expect when you do become a Canadian. Page 3, I quote directly from this little booklet. Canadian citizens enjoy equality rights, language rights, & religious rights.They must respect the rights and freedoms of others. Canadian citizens must also be willing to get involved in their communities. Canadian citizens are proud of the peaceful and tolerant society they have built. Page 7, Canadian values include freedom, respect for cultural differences and a commitment to social justice. We are proud of the fact that we are a peaceful nation.We value our democracy and every citizen is encouraged to do his or her share.
Canadian values include:Equality: We respect everyone’s rights. Everyone has the right to speak out and express ideas that others might disagree with. Respect: Governments must treat everyone with equal dignity and respect. We respect cultural differences and try to understand and appreciate the cultures, customs, & traditions of all Canadians whether they were born in Canada or came here from another country. Freedom: We enjoy basic freedoms such as freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, & freedom of peaceful assembly. Page 8, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is part of our Constitution since 1982.In Canada, we believe in working together and helping one another. People who help others without being paid are called volunteers. Page 10, All Canadians have a responsibility to contribute to the social, economic, and environmental well-being or our country. That is what we do at STREETCHURCH.
Every member of Street church is an unpaid volunteer. We come from various denominations, diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. On team there are a geologist, a few engineers, a chiropractor, an educator, a counselor, and various other professionals. The founder of Streetchurch, Art Pawlowski was a prosperous developer who gave it all up to follow his passion, to help those in need. We all do this because we get excited about helping those who cannot fend for themselves. We don’t have all the answers but try to address as many as we can. We focus on the whole person, body, mind, and spirit.
The homeless are fed with high protein food, warm hot chocolate in winter. They are given gloves, socks, toques, jackets according to the season, bus passes to go to work or see a doctor.
In closing, I want to quote a few lines from our national anthem "O Canada" From far and wide, O Canada, We stand on guard for thee, God keep our land glorious and free! In the bible, in the book of Joshua 24:15, it is written "choose for yourselves this day which God you will serve". As for me and my house, we will serve this same God mentioned in our Charter of rights, the same God on which our Canadian Constitution was founded.
Thank you for listening.
We have received summons and tickets for: "Unlawfully"
· Make available, offer or give away free good and services in the park
· Attract a crowd in a park
· Use public tree to secure an object
· Place a sign in a park
· Place an electrical cord, hose, chain or other similar obstruction over or across any portion of a street
· Create or cause the emissions of any loud and unnecessary noise coming from a vehicle
· Person placing material on the street
· Cause unnecessary noise
· Person making noise which disturbs a person
· Causing objectionable noise
· Operate amplification system