A warm Osoyoos welcome, but not for ‘troublemakers’

Perhaps it was the slow day for Council — just 54 minutes for the Committee of the Whole Monday morning and 46 additional minutes later that afternoon for the regular Council meeting.

Perhaps it was the focus the community had placed on Gyro Park last week when it celebrated the expansion and the work undertaken in the park with Resort Municipality funding.

Or perhaps it was a niggling in my gut because, well, it just felt . . . wrong.

Whatever it was, I did a bit of a double-take when I read a parks enforcement report delivered Monday by the Town’s Bylaw Enforcement branch to Council.

You won’t find much about the report in the Council presentation. It was received as information and shuffled away.

But pull the document up online and the language stands out like a sore thumb.

“Park enforcement for the month of July (although I think the report meant to say August) was easier due to the fact the troublemakers have left town and there were more families and tourist (sic) in the park.”

Troublemakers? We have a group of people in our community we can readily identify as troublemakers?

Since the report specifically mentions families and tourists as still being in the parks, I can only assume the person who wrote the report was talking about the young people who come to the community each spring to pick cherries and other fruit.

Or the university and college students — some of them one day to be doctors and lawyers and nurses and engineers — who spend a summer away from home — specifically (mostly) their Quebec and New Brunswick homes — before heading back to school.

Or perhaps it’s our senior population who aren’t tourists and don’t have families nearby.

Yeah, probably not the last bunch — as wild as they can get on their scooters and shuffling home in droves after early nights at bingo and lawn bowling.

To be fair, these young people do embrace a bohemian or vagabond lifestyle. They all seem to have dogs as travelling companions. And they likely participate in activities so common among so many young other people across the country.

They like to party.

But who doesn’t in Osoyoos?

So just what is it that makes them troublemakers?

Yes, they probably drink in public, but so does the majority of the visitor population in Osoyoos over the summer months.

I have photo after photo of Music in the Park revelers tipping back a disguised bit of wine, gin or beer as they enjoy the show.

Ever wondered how much boat traffic includes a well stocked coolor? Or two? Or three?

Are theses folks troublemakers?

Our vagabond yougsters probably smoke a little weed. But from what I can gather from the pungent odours that infiltrate our community after dark, so does half of the Osoyoos population.

Is it their dress, then? Or their dogs? Their language and culture? The fact they don’t spend dollars in our stores?

No matter what it is, to label a single group of people as troublemakers in an official report seems to insinuate bias.

It’s what elsewhere, we might call profiling.

At its very worst, the careless use of the troublemaker label suggests an intolerance that makes impartiality and fairness — hallmarks of the law enforcement field — impossible.

More likely, the language was just that — careless.

That said, the word “troublemaker” now is part of the official public record, and it should give us pause and demand we question how we view visitors to our community.

Do we have an unconscious sense that Osoyoos is a place reserved for Lower Mainland and Alberta visitors who fit within the more common middle-class Canadian norm, especially those showing up with fat wallets?

Should we identify our own set of Osoyoos values? Then use those values as a test for admittance?

Or does the warm Canada welcome we extend also embrace the young workers and, yes, bohemians who come to enjoy our community as well?

Shouldn’t they have just as much a right to experience an Osoyoos summer as anyone who finds his or her way here?

Last Saturday evening, an event was organized for Jojo’s Café that celebrated the Mexican community that makes its home in Osoyoos every summer.

Perhaps instead of writing off our eastern visitors as “troublemakers” next spring we could find a way to embrace them as well.

Invite them to walk proud in our Cherry Fiesta parade. Set up a space where they can shower, wash their clothes and splash their dogs and maybe even pitch a tent or two.

Let’s find opportunities to mingle with them. Learn about them. Better understand them

We might find as we did just that the chips came off their shoulders. The devil-might-care attitude would disappear as it began to sink in that not only is Osoyoos our home, but, for a few summer months at least, it is their home as well..

Home because it was a place they were welcomed and appreciated.

Home because they can feel safe here — and not immediately identified as a suspected troublemaker.

If you haven’t heard it before, a home does a funny thing to a man. It gives him reason. To tend, To care. And to protect.

Just a simple bit of work and accommodation and our Bylaw Enforcement branch might not have to write the word “troublemakers” next July — not because they now know it’s probably not a good word to use in official reports but more so because so few troublemakers still exist.

Now, wouldn’t that be a report to present.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I am not sure what group the report was referring to, but perhaps it was the young people (possibly) from Quebec who do not obey the rules? As a local, I do not have much opportunity to relax on our beaches and in our parks but during a visit from my daughter and her family and only two brief visits to our beach parks, I noted young, French-speaking groups with dogs not on leashes (and without collars to leash them) running around beaches not designated as dog beaches. One group stripped down to their underwear and ran into the lake with their pit bull breed dog, who appeared to have recently had puppies. When the bylaw officer was speaking to the group about dogs not being allowed on the beach, their dog stared down my 6 year old grandson in what (to me) appeared to be threatening. Soaking wet in their underwear, the group left promptly. It was interesting to me that they were right beside a huge sign that said “No Dogs Allowed”. Perhaps it was a language thing. The second group, at a different beach on a different day that was right next to a dog beach, had a large dog, again without a collar or leash. It took after a young deer who was nearby and chased it into the lake. It was only after several shouts from other beach goers, that someone finally got up and retrieved their dog. So, do I object to young people, or “pickers from Quebec”? Not at all, if they follow the rules. I would also like to state that there were no reports of dog attacks in Osoyoos this summer that I am aware of. I think the bylaw officer that I saw did an excellent job. Kudos.

  2. I am happy to read something written with a sober judgement of the friction between the transient workers and local residents that exists in Osoyoos and many other agricultural communities around BC. I am a cherry picker myself and I have observed many different situations involving police bias towards fruit pickers. Understandably the police observe illicit behaviour in this group, and properly enforce the law, which is a difficult job, but for sure there is an over emphasis on policing this specific group. I hope law enforcement in Osoyoos is held responsible for this profiling that is occurring and takes a good look at there own prejudice. Thanks for the great article.

  3. Wow, the piano in Gyro Park was such a hit this summer. It was something that Osoyoos did right, what a great time seeing and listening to amazing, talented and brilliant young seasonal workers, children and others from around the world playing the piano and bringing people together with their music. The piano struck the perfect chord for us and the songs that were performed still remain in my heart; I will never forget the piano, guitars and songs that filled the waterfront on that warm evening, last July.
    ‘Never judge a book by its’ cover.’ We found that our hello and a genuine smile opened the doors to a friendly connection with a group of young workers living the ‘vagabond lifestyle’ this summer.
    I will never forget the laughter, stories, and positive energy they shared with my husband, our sister-friend Gaye Horn, and I for just a pittance in time; such a wonderful evening in the park with these young people and to think it all started by saying, “hello, I love your dog.”

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