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Bylaw Enforcement

 

Local government bylaw enforcement generally refers to a host of actions directed at obtaining compliance with local government bylaws. This may include activities such as educating the public about regulatory rules, conducting inspections to ensure that the rules are being followed, mediating between members of the public, leveraging voluntary compliance with the rules where possible, and seeking consequences for contraventions where compliance is not forthcoming or harm has been done to the community.
 

Most local government bylaw enforcement authority is found in the Community Charter, which provides the core municipal powers. Certain provisions of the Community Charter, particularly relating to municipal ticketing, also apply to regional districts and local trust committees. Other bylaw enforcement authorities for regional districts are found in the Local Government Act, and for local trust committees in the Islands Trust Act. The City of Vancouver bylaw enforcement powers are found in the Vancouver Charter
 

When establishing bylaw enforcement regimes local governments must make policy choices about when to take enforcement action. Most bylaw investigations are initiated as a result of a complaint, although some bylaws are subject to ongoing inspections for compliance. Local government inspections may include entering onto property, at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner, to determine whether local government regulations, prohibitions and requirements are being met. Local governments may also apply to the Provincial Court for an entry warrant if reasonable requests are refused.
 

If there is a contravention, local governments may encourage the person responsible to voluntarily rectify the situation. In relation to certain hazardous situations or declared nuisances, a municipal council may order a person to rectify the situation, or take action to eliminate the hazard or damage and require the person to pay the costs incurred to do so. Where compliance with a bylaw is a condition of a licence or permit, a local government may suspend the licence or permit until the person, or persons, comply.
 

Ultimately, when efforts at obtaining compliance have failed, a local government must decide whether the contravention of its bylaws requires enforcement of the bylaw.
 

A local government may apply to the Supreme Court for an injunction or court order, to enforce, or prevent or restrain the contravention of a local government bylaw or resolution.
 

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The contravention of a local government regulation, requirement or prohibition is an offence under the primary legislation for that form of local government. As such, a local government may also seek a summary conviction for the contravention of a bylaw in Provincial Court. Prosecutions in Provincial Court are generally initiated by the swearing of an Information, a document that tells the Court what the allegation is. For local governments, however, there are two ways to proceed, by Municipal Ticket Information under the Community Charter, or by “long-form” Information under the Offence Act.
 

The key differences between these documents lie in the formality of the process that they begin and the degree of penalty to which they may ultimately lead. A Municipal Ticket Information, known as an MTI or municipal ticket, is the simpler of the two. A municipal ticket is completed by a police or bylaw enforcement officer, and may be immediately personally served on the alleged offender. An MTI may be resolved without court appearance through payment of a fine and admission of guilt, or may be disputed in court. A paid MTI is typically not drawn up as a conviction.
 

A “long-form” Information must be sworn in front of a Provincial Court justice, who then issues a Summons which must be personally served on the alleged offender and requires that person’s appearance at court. Due to the greater consequences of a proceeding initiated by “long-form” Information, which may include imprisonment, there is a greater degree of formality to the proceedings, and local governments and the alleged offender are typically represented by lawyers. Certain matters, such as an offence related to the discharge of a firearm, may only be initiated by long-form Information; such matters are sufficiently serious that it is in the public interest for the alleged offender to be heard by or admit guilt in front of the court.
 

As an alternative to seeking summary convictions for very simple matters, like parking violations, local governments may implement an administrative penalty system known as “bylaw notice enforcement” Local Government Bylaw Notice Enforcement Act. Using this system requires a local government to establish an dispute process that is much less formal than a courts, presided over by a third-party adjudicator.
 

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A bylaw notice may be written by a bylaw enforcement officer and delivered in a variety of reasonable means, including in person or by being left on a vehicle. The penalties under this system are strictly monetary, the burden of proof substantially less, and the discretion of the adjudicator to adjust the penalty amount is nil. Bylaw notice enforcement is available to local governments by regulation.
 

Most bylaws require enforcement by individuals with specialized training, knowledge or experience, and the elements of bylaw enforcement are carried out primarily by employees and officers of a local government who are appointed by name or job classification as bylaw enforcement officers. The Licence Inspectors' and Bylaw Officers' Association of British Columbia is the professional association of bylaw enforcement officers in the Province.
 

The Local Government Department develops policy on bylaw enforcement and makes recommendations for legislative change. It works with the Ministry of Attorney General to build partnerships with key stakeholders and collaborates to develop educational and training materials.
 

 

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