Friday, September 6, 2013

Park Ranger keeps mind nimble amid OneCard kerfuffle

Below are photographs of a Vancouver Park Ranger passing time with a skill-testing newspaper crossword puzzle.

Vancouver Park Rangers are normally busy in summertime helping visitors enjoy the city's parks. Ambassadors of the flora and fauna.

Synonym for controversy...
That is not the photograph of a lazy Park Ranger. The proper word is bored. For this new assignment -- to be the eyes and ears of the Vision Vancouver dominated Board of Parks and Recreation at a half-dozen rebel community centres -- at least one Park Ranger became a modern equivalent of the Maytag Man.

This Park Ranger has been assigned to a community centre to intervene in a dispute and perform a job that he may actually not be licensed to perform. This is what the Park Rangers are qualified to do. Notice the lack of the word "security."

My source told me the photograph was shot the morning of Sept. 3 at Kensington Community Centre.

Kensington is one of the six community centres run by volunteer associations that are refusing to submit to Vancouver city hall's centralization of power and imposition of the OneCard universal access card. The other 16 community associations are toeing the line.

The rebel six pack of community centre associations filed this B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit against City of Vancouver on Aug. 20. City of Vancouver replied with this news release on Aug. 22. The six associations were notified a week later by the Park Board that their joint operating agreements will be cancelled on Dec. 31, 2013. Park Rangers were then deployed to keep an eye on things.

On Sept. 4, I sent a list of questions to Park Board Chair Sarah Blyth and general manager Malcolm Bromley, to find out more about the deployment of Park Rangers. Neither Blyth nor Bromley responded with answers, but I am hoping that this will spur them into action. Because you deserve to know.

I want to find out how many Park Rangers are being deployed to these community centres and at what cost to Vancouverites. I am also curious about the qualifications of the Park Rangers: Is it true that the Board of Parks and Recreation does not require Park Rangers to hold a provincial security licence under the Security Services Act, even though the services they provide include security? This job ad says Park Ranger candidates require a driver's licence and first aid certificate. A Grade 12 education is desired. Pay begins at $23 an hour. Not too shabby. Under B.C. law, workers have the right to refuse unsafe work.

The Park Rangers are members of CUPE local 15, but president Leanne Toderian and city sector representative Dierdre Bradshaw did not respond either. 

This is an open invitation to Blyth, Bromley and CUPE local 15 to have their responses published here. 

Also, if you're a Vancouver Park Ranger, please contact me confidentially

UPDATE (Sept. 9): Blyth did not respond, but vice-chair Aaron Jasper did. He said Park Ranger deployment to the six dissident community centres was mandated by general manager Malcolm Bromley after incidents on Aug. 20 and 23 at a community centre that Jasper refused to name. Jasper also refused to tell me how much this is costing Vancouverites.

"In one of the instances the general manager had to intervene and the person was actually escorted off the property by a Vancouver Police officer. and subsequently to that incident a WorkSafeBC investigation was initiated because of a staff complaint of potential harassment and threats to their ability to perform their work," Jasper said. "We have an obligation to provide a safe and supportive working environment. The politics and the disagreement between the associations and the park board is not an excuse for members of the public or association executive members to harass our staff, we make no apologies, I support the general manager's decision to have a park ranger on site."

VPD spokesman Const. Brian Montague confirmed there was an incident on Aug. 23 at Hillcrest Community Centre. "There was no allegation of an assault and no evidence indicating that one had occurred. The matter was resolved without charges." 

Riley Park/Hillcrest Community Association president Jesse Johl said he witnessed Hillcrest recreation supervisor Peter Fox wave his finger in association treasurer Todd Constant's face. Johl said Constant has been "on top" of the community centre's finances "to the point where we account for everything and as a lot of questions and staff don't like it." 

Bromley attended and told Constant he would be banned from the community centre. Constant reminded the general manager that there was a joint operating agreement between the parties and that he had no authority to ban community centre association executives from the community centre. Johl said the police officer who attended, Const. Savage, did not escort anyone away. 

"There was only one witness to the entire event, that was me," Johl said. "Todd was not being abusive, Todd was not being aggressive."

But back to the question about the Park Rangers' qualifications. 

Jasper admitted they're not required to be security-certified, but they are deployed "to help assure, there is a safe, secure work environment for our staff." 

"You're sort of fixating on that aspect, in my mind the issue here is why did the park board general manager feel compelled to take this action," Jasper said. 

"Our park rangers do go through conflict resolution training, they're out there in the public dealing with potentially very volatile situations…. they know what their limits are, so if it's a situation they deem requires a backup they get on the phone, they contact the police.   

"I'm confident they have adequate training. If our park rangers are qualified enough to be out there in the summer months in all sorts of instances across our park system, surely they're OK to be sitting in the lobby of a community centre just monitoring, making sure everyone is conducting themselves respectfully."

The last word goes to the Security Services Act, which states, in Section 2

"An individual must not engage in any kind of security work, or hold himself or herself out to be so employed or employable, unless the individual holds a valid security worker licence for that kind of security work."  

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