It didn't take long.

A group protesting against Kenora's proposed loitering bylaw held a noon-hour demonstration in front of city hall yesterday. 

"I think there are better ways to spend the resources, to spend the time to help those people find a different way," said Dr. Jonny Grek of Compassionate Kenora yesterday. 

Kenora's mayor says the bylaw provides a legal way for police to remove encampments, as well as those sleeping in public places. The mayor also noted an increase in concerns related to public safety, due to the closure of services related to the pandemic, along with the inmates let out from jail due to public health concerns inside the institution and the lack of staff who are working from home during the coronavirus outbreak.

The safety issues aren't limited to the downtown core, as residents in the River Drive and east highway area of the city are also expressing their concerns about safety in their neighbourhood. 

Still, Grek says he doesn't agree with the bylaw, saying it will allow police to remove what he says will be mainly poor Indigenous people.

"That, in itself, could be traumatic and discriminatory against those individuals that are being targeted for this," Grek added.

The city also had to deal with the balance between the rights of vulnerable residents of the city and the safety issues faced by those visiting or doing business in the community, when the closure of the new downtown shelter was ordered roughly a year ago. 

Council is expected to vote on their proposed bylaw next week. Another demonstration is expected Friday afternoon.

The city is also looking at $40,000 worth of changes to landscaping features downtown -- including benches, flower beds and granite blocks -- in order to mitigate the social issues downtown. 

Councillors are also looking to spend more than $900,000 on plans for the future development of the harbourfront.

While opponents of the bylaw say there's no sense in further development downtown, if the root causes of the city's aren't being addressed, supporters of the bylaw note the many resources in the process of being implemented, but aren't quite completed. They include the treatment centre, remand centre, affordable housing units, wrap-around support services and justice centre.

The youth hub, downtown shelter, Fellowship Centre, Friendship Centre, Knox, St. Alban's, and Jubilee Church have also offered help to those in need downtown, but they have also been interrupted at times by the pandemic.

For more information:

City revisits downtown benches, flower beds

Loitering bylaw needed to address safety issues, mayor

City orders safety repairs

Drug charges laid after River Drive arrests