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Court rules against RCMP union in dispute over ‘scramble parking’

Police Briefs: Whistler RCMP presents ‘Safe Place’ LGBTQ2+ initiative to council
A labour board has dismissed two complaints from the National Police Federation over the parking arrangements at the RCMP’s Whistler and Victoria detachments.

The RCMP union  has lost a court battle over the “hot button issue” of pay parking at the Whistler and Victoria detachments, according to court documents. 

Outlined in a pair of complaints filed by the National Police Federation (NPF), which applied in 2017 to represent the RCMP’s 19,000 members and reservists, the issue concerns changes to parking arrangements that were made before the union received final approval to act on their behalf. 

Labour law dictates that employers cannot radically alter employees’ working conditions in the lead-up to a union bargaining for them. 

At the core of the dispute in Whistler was the municipality’s decision in June 2017 to suspend all free parking for RCMP members, who previously had an arrangement with the bylaw department not to ticket their personal vehicles during work hours.  

According to the labour board, the municipality’s general manager at the time learned of the arrangement with bylaw and ended free parking for anything other than municipal, police, and emergency vehicles.

The situation appeared to be even more dire in Victoria, where the RCMP has its own headquarters and, until June of last year, a 124-space parking lot for 172 employees in the building. Roughly 25 of those spaces were reserved for specific vehicles, with the remaining spaces slotted for other federal or municipal vehicles, visitors and employees. Both the union and the RCMP described the rush throughout the workday for available spots as “scramble parking.” 

“The RCMP attempted to mange the parking situation in a way that balanced the operational need to park police vehicles with the need for employee parking,” the ruling read. “It was a poorly functioning system that resulted in the ticketing of police and personal vehicles and disruptions to the workday, and it still did not provide enough parking for employees.” 

Changes instituted on June 3, 2019 increased the use of designated spots for police vehicles in Victoria and “appears to have reduced the parking violations for those vehicles, while maintaining as much employee parking as possible within the limits of the lot,” the ruling continued. 

While acknowledging in both the Whistler and Victoria cases that the RCMP “missed an opportunity to formally consult with the NPF about the policy change before putting it in place,” labour board adjudicator David Orfald ultimately dismissed the complaints, finding that the NPF “failed to establish that the employer altered a term and condition of employment.” 

 Creating a ‘Safe Place’ for Whistler’s LGBTQ2+ community 

The Whistler RCMP has taken a page out of other police agencies across North America with the rollout of its Safe Place initiative, aimed at making the community a safer, more welcoming place for the resort’s LGBTQ2+ community. 

Presenting to mayor and council on Tuesday, Sept. 1, Cpl. Nate Miller outlined how the initiative works: interested businesses and organizations will complete a one-page application before being sent a Safe Place decal or poster to hang in a prominent place. 

“By showing this decal in your premises, essentially what you’re doing is showing members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning and two-spirited community that they are welcome in your establishment and it is a safe haven,” Miller explained. “If they’re a victim of crime or if they’re feeling in distress, your premises would welcome the individual in and you would help them by allowing them to stay in your establishment, and also, if they need assistance, to help them by calling police, and they would just wait there until we can arrive to assist them in any way.” 

Miller said roughly 15 Whistler organizations have signed up so far. 

Councillor John Grills welcomed the initiative, saying it comes at an opportune time just days after a Vancouver sports reporter was assaulted and had his leg shattered for confronting a man purporting to belong to a group of anti-gay street preachers that have been spreading homophobic rhetoric over loud speakers in the West End for much of the summer.  

“It’s good to have this in place,” Grills said. “Hopefully nothing happens like this during Pride Week, but it’s good for us to be prepared.” 

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