The District of Vanderhoof is moving forward with with plans to install a surveillance video camera at the rainbow crosswalk located at Victoria Street East and Bute Avenue due to repeated vandalism.
At a council meeting on March 14, mayor and council directed staff to draft a video surveillance policy and privacy impact statement for approval by the Office of the Information Privacy Commissioner (OPIC) before installing the system.
The painting of a rainbow crosswalk stemmed from the Nechako Valley Secondary School’s Queer Alliance last year asking that local businesses display a rainbow sticker on their windows to show inclusivity. Council resolved to create a rainbow crosswalk connecting Nechako Valley Secondary School and W. L. McLeod Elementary School across Victoria Street.
The sidewalk was first painted last year on June 23 and over the course of that summer was repeatedly vandalized by drivers performing burnouts on it. The crosswalk has since been “touched up” and repainted “at least a dozen times” according to the district.
A burnout is classified as a “stunt” and is a punishable offence that can lead to fines and impoundment under B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act.
The RCMP identified a person performing burnouts on the crosswalk in the summer of 2021 after a video was posted on Facebook.
The person apologized and was to go through the restorative justice process but it is unclear whether this has occurred.
According to OPIC guidelines surveillance cameras are “a highly-invasive technology” to be used as a last resort after exhausting less privacy-invasive alternatives. District staff spoke with an OPIC officer who made suggestions on how to move forward.
The OPIC suggested council could consider relocating the crosswalk to a busier, brighter intersection as a way of achieving the same objective of reducing vandalism. But council had specifically asked that the crosswalk be at Victoria and Bute to link the two schools.
If the district believes the burnouts are hate crimes based on sexual orientation, the OPIC suggested the issue could also be referred to the RCMP who may open a criminal investigation, under which the collection of personal information would be permitted.
In this case it would be assumed the RCMP could install surveillance on a temporary basis to see what happens and remove it — if it is not solving the problem. The OIPC believes the onus is on the RCMP to solve the issue if hate crimes are being committed.
OIPC staff also suggested the maximum time for a system to be active would be one year, after which time the system would be removed.
The cost of a remote video surveillance system has not yet been determined and there will also be costs to running and maintaining the system.