City of Winnipeg to discontinue controversial noise project
WINNIPEG -- It appears the city will no longer test noise makers to deter people from living under city bridges.
CTV News reported Wednesday that the city set up a pilot project, attaching a speaker to the underside of the Maryland Bridge and three other locations.
The speaker emits multiple beeps along with a constant high pitch sound.
The city said it was meant to deter people from congregating under the bridge for safety reasons and to prevent damage to property.
But late Wednesday evening councillors received an internal email from Interim CAO Mike Ruta letting them know the noisemakers would no longer be operated.
That memo said that “after hearing from the Mayor, members of Council, and others today, we have decided to discontinue this pilot project; and we will disable the sound-emitting devices at these locations. The public service will evaluate options to protect the infrastructure and the safety of those who are congregating under the bridges.“
At least two councillors, Kevin Klein and Shawn Nason, signed a letter demanding an end to the program.
“It's shocking that this is the only solution that the full force of the Public Service could find,” said the councillors’ letter.
Homeless advocate Al Wiebe told CTV News he feels the use of the noisemakers is inhumane.
“I really do think that it’s an invasion of privacy and it takes the dignity away of people living there” Wiebe said.
Jim Berezowsky, the director of public works, said the use of the noise emitting devices was within his department’s budgeted authority.
Berezowsky said the main goal of the pilot was to protect city infrastructure following three recent fires. He said the heat can cause a bridge to collapse.
“We have a responsibility to the rest of the citizens of the city to maintain and preserve that infrastructure,” he said.
The director said public works didn’t want to tip off anyone about the speakers so people wouldn’t prejudge the pilot.
“You want to gain that true feedback that we did start to receive from homeowners and people in the area.”
BOWMAN SAYS NOISE EMITTERS ARE INHUMANE
On Thursday, Mayor Brian Bowman said he did believe the noise emitters are inhumane.
"It deeply troubled me when I learned it," Bowman said. "Part of the concern that I have, and I know others are sharing it, is the stigmatization that does exist for those members of our community that are affected by homelessness, and what it communicates to the broader community."
Bowman said he first learned of the noise emitters on Wednesday. He said neither he nor anyone else in his office knew about the pilot project prior to Wednesday.
He said when he heard about the noise emitter pilot project on Wednesday afternoon, he said he reached out to the public service to get a better understanding.
He said he understands the public service's concern over the safety of the residents and of the infrastructure, but said the use of the noise emitter technology missed the mark. He said he heard that this technology may have been used in other cities, but said it is not acceptable to be used in this context in the City of Winnipeg.
"I would like to better appreciate if there are better alternates to achieve the outcomes that are desired, and I would like to have that canvassed and scrutinized at a committee of council."
Bowman said he would like to find alternates to the noise emitters that are not "troubling or offensive to Winnipeggers" and shows some sensitivity to the residents.
‘IT’S UNETHICAL’: KLEIN WANTS ANSWERS ON PROJECT
Speaking to CTV Morning Live on Thursday morning, Klein called the noise deterrent project “inhumane.”
He wants answers on how the project was approved.
“In the response that we got from the public service, there was no responsibility taken, no accountability, I’m not sure how this pilot project got approved, and I would like to know,” he said. “I want to know who approved this, how did it get through without going to council, because this is just unfathomable to me.
“It’s a mark on our city once again, because it’s discriminatory, it’s unethical, and the fact that it didn’t go to council shocks me.”
Klein said somebody from the city needs to be held accountable and take responsibility for the project.
“It is the mayor’s job to manage the city,” he said. “Someone has to take accountability, and it needs to be dealt with immediately.”
CTV News has reached out to the mayor and the City of Winnipeg for more information.
-with files from CTV’s Nicole Dube.