RDCK postpones climate events, citing intimidation, safety, misinformation

Safety concerns at meetings

UPDATE: 12:20 p.m.

A series of open house meetings in the Central Kootenays around the region's climate change strategy have been postponed due to “recent safety concerns.”

The 17 meetings across the Regional District of Central Kootenay were scheduled to be held between May 23 and July 5, but opposition to the plan both online and within the communities led to their postponement, which was announced Thursday.

“There was a general retort developing online and some actual comments within specific communities,” said Stuart Horn, chief administrative officer with the RDCK.

“We were getting to a point where we weren't comfortable sending our staff into that environment and couldn't guarantee the safety of all the people attending. So we just decided to press pause for a little bit and reassess how we're going to roll this out.”

Horn said no direct threats have been made, but the district wanted to ensure attendees could participate without fear of intimidation.

“The closest we came to direct threats was individuals mentioning they were going to attend a certain meeting and encourage some aggressiveness, is the word I would say, although that word may be too strong,” Horn said.

He noted that much of the opposition to the Climate Action Plan appears to come from a misunderstanding of what the plan actually is.

“Once the plan was approved, there was some concern that it brought down certain regulations and certain rules that the RDCK would enforce. That's not the case. The plan is very much a guidance document that sets a very high-level structure in terms of how we would attack the climate issues we're dealing with in the regional district,” Horn said.

“When the plan is approved, the goal is to then go back out to the communities to say, 'Here's the kind of overarching goals that we have with respect to climate action, how do we implement them in your community. How do you see them working or do you not see them working?'”

One concern among those opposed to the plan was the idea of “15-minute cities,” an urban planning concept that involves providing people's needs within close proximity to their homes. Those opposed to the idea generally express concern that oppressive governments would limit individuals' ability to travel outside of these prescribed areas.

But regardless of how one feels about the concept, Horn says the RDCK Climate Action Plan has nothing to do with 15-minute cities.

He notes that while prior board meetings have been “quite contentious,” he can't recall another time when they've been forced to postpone meetings entirely. But he's optimistic the regional district will be able to correct some of the inaccurate information that's been swirling online.

“We do want people to really understand where we're going, as opposed to thinking the plan is something that it's not,” he said.

While the plan was originally expected to be brought to the RDCK board for consideration of adoption in August, Horn says the postponement of the open houses for about a month will likely push that back.

ORIGINAL: 10:05 a.m.

A British Columbia regional district has postponed a series of climate action open houses, citing safety concerns and fears of intimidation.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay in southeast B.C. says the open houses were scheduled to take place from next week until July, but making the "difficult decision" to delay the events was the only responsible course of action.

The district's statement issued Thursday doesn't describe the nature of the intimidation, but says its draft climate guidance plan has been the subject of online misinformation that had caused confusion and misunderstandings.

The news release disavows the concept of 15-minute cities as part of the plan.

The 15-minute city concept advocates placing community amenities and facilities close to where people live, but has been the subject of conspiracy theories that it's part of a plan to restrict freedom of movement around the world.

The district says it hopes to reschedule the open houses as soon as possible.

"We understand the disappointment this (postponement) may cause, however, we firmly believe prioritizing the safety of our staff, attendees, and the community as a whole is paramount," the release says.

– The Canadian Press

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