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City will review streetcorner charity solicitors bylaw

Nov 16 2012

Victoria will review its bylaw surrounding charity solicitation - what some people call chugging (short for charity mugging) - on city streets.

Councillors decided Thursday the review could be part of a larger one already looking into commercial use of public spaces.

"Chuggers" are paid canvassers who solicit donations, generally on behalf of charitable organizations.

Coun. Shellie Gudgeon said she was asked by the board of Tourism Victoria to bring the issue to council.

There's a concern a lot of foreign tourists believe the solicitors are official representatives of the city, Gudgeon said.

"There's a real misconception in translation. People don't understand."

Gudgeon said she personally believes the street solicitors detract from the downtown experience, adding she will even try to cross the road to avoid them.

And while councillors supported the review of the Street Collections Bylaw, which was last modified 35 years ago, they didn't all agree that chuggers are a problem.

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said she has never felt harassed by street canvassers.

Thornton-Joe said times are changing. In the past canvassers for charities would go door to door, but that has fallen by the wayside with concerns over privacy, and the legitimacy of canvassers.

"When they say: 'Have you got time to chat? I just say: 'No. Sorry.' I haven't felt harassed at all," Thornton-Joe said.

However, Coun. Pam Madoff said she finds some canvassers are more problematic than panhandlers. "I have never been aggressively panhandled but I have been very aggressively approached by these folks," Madoff said.

Just as council looked at a code of conduct for panhandling, she said, the review could suggest a code of conduct for the street canvassers.

Coun. Chris Coleman supported a review being undertaken. "I will say there are some aggressive solicitors out there and the ultimate damage is done not only to the downtown but also to some of those charities," he said.

City staff reported there have not been many complaints, but that some merchants expressed concerns about canvassers standing too close to doorways as well as from pedestrians who didn't like being approached by strangers.

While the bylaw is being reviewed, council decided to continue to accept new applications for street collection permits.


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