Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Confusion of City By-Laws Information

When I first reported an act of illegal dumping of construction materials into the dumpster behind my house I was told the By-Law department could not proceed. They did not have access to the MPI database that would allow them to find the owner of the vehicle used. This was back in August of this year. I spoke with the By-Law officers' boss, Kevin Seaford, and again was told the department did not have access to the MPI database.
My blog has been logging my efforts to have this issue corrected. I mean, how can the By-Law department not have access to the information they need in order to perform their jobs? I have been requesting information from the Mayor's office, as Mayor Sam Katz, himself, promised me he would take care of this issue personally. When he called to ask for my vote, I told him about the issue with the By-Law department. He said he would see to it personally that my issue was taken care of.
Well, I guess the Mayor came through on his promise. I was contacted by the By-Law department on November 10 and told they finally got the truck owners name.
But when did the Mayors' office decide to uphold the promise? Was it when Gordon Sinclair published my story in the Winnipeg Free Press on Oct 21? Or was it just done out of the kindness of his heart?
I thought my fight was over when I went down to the By-Law office to make my statement regarding the illegal dumping of the construction material. I thought the issue of the By-Law department not having access to information was corrected. But no. When I asked Kevin Seaford about that, he said this was a one time deal. He said they still do not have access to the MPI database. He also said nobody has ever been fined for illegal dumping.
I don't know what made me more upset. Was it that nothing had been fixed? Or was it that the problem was far deeper than I ever imagined. Not only did they not have access to the information they needed to prosecute offenders, but none of the offenders have ever been fined. Not ever.
When I was first told that the By-Law department did not have access to the MPI database, I was told the reason was because of the Privacy Act. Or at least that is what I thought I heard from the two people I spoke with at the By-Law office. When I checked back on the notes I made when speaking with Kevin Seaford on the phone, I had written "Asked & Asked, denied, privacy laws". I remember that conversation. Seaford had said he had asked and asked for the information, and it was denied. He must have given the reason as 'privacy laws' at that point.
When I found the section of the Privacy Act that actually allows for information to be provided in order to assist in the prosecution of a crime, I thought I was on to something. So, I called Kevin Seaford at the By-Law office, to see what he had to say about this new finding of mine. The response was not what I had expected. Kevin said I got it wrong. Apparently the Privacy Act has nothing to do with the reason the By-Law Office does not have access to the MPI database. He said all he could tell me was that his office does not have access to the MPI database. He suggested I speak with his boss, or his bosses boss (Peter deGraaf).
I am all for going to the top, and I had Peter deGraaf's email address. So I sent him an email. I want to know the "official" reason why the By-Law department does not have access to information needed to do their job.

>> Peter,
>> As you know I have filed a complaint with the By-Law department
>> regarding the illegal dumping of construction materials in the Autobin
>> behind my house. I had included a photograph of the individual,
>> including the white
>> 1/2 ton truck, the Manitoba license plate number and a clear image of
>> the person doing the dumping. I sent this complaint in on August 20,
>> and received a reference number of 405412. I was told the following
>> Thursday by telephone that the By-Law department could not proceed
>> further because they did not have access to information from the MPI
>> database that would allow them to obtain the vehicle owner of the
> truck committing the crime.
>> The reason given at that time was that it involved the Privacy Act. I
>> understand the information regarding the owner of the vehicle was
>> obtained, but as a special, one time instance.
>> I have since read the Privacy Act, and find that Section 17(2) b
>> states information can be made available from a public body if it "is
>> necessary to prosecute the violation or continue the investigation".
>> I would like to know why the By-Law Department informed me that they
>> do not have access to information they need to follow through on these
>> By-Law infractions. I do not see the Privacy Act infringing, in any
>> way, the obtaining of information needed in the prosecution of a
>> violation. I do not see any obstruction to information needed in the
>> enforcement of this By-Law.
>> Rae Butcher

Well, I got an answer from Peter tonight.
HI Rae,

Thank you for your communications.  It would appear there was an initial
misunderstanding relative to the ability to access the necessary
information in order to proceed with this investigation at the outset.

The City of Winnipeg Community By-Law Enforcement Services Unit (CBES)
has consulted further with The City of Winnipeg Legal Services and as a
result, the matter has in fact proceeded.  Also, in terms of accessing
MPI database information, Legal Services submits CBES database
information requests to MPI according to an established process with

This case is now before the courts.  We sincerely appreciate citizens
taking an active role in the health and wellbeing of our community and
once again thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Yours truly, 

Peter de Graaf
Manager of Community By-law Enforcement Services City of Winnipeg
Community Services Department

So, does this mean that the By-Laws department does have access to information they need to take care of these illegal dumping issues? Is there really an established process for the By-Laws department to request information from MPI to do their jobs?
How could there be a misunderstanding? Did they loose the manual on how to make a request? Or have they never made a request before and just didn't know which button to push to send the request through?
What is the actual probem? Is it that they really do not want to prosecute these illegal dumpers? Is it that the North End is not important enough to process any request by it's citizens? Are North Enders really such sub-citizens that the By-Law department has a policy of not acting on their complaints? I sure hope I got this one wrong.


  1. The problem is that they really don't like the idea of YOU dear citizen, telling them to DO their JOB! 311 told me the DO prosecute illegal dumping (as if they'd know). Winnipeg suffers froma a terrible disease, and the cure starts with letting a lot of people go find other work in the piblic sector.

  2. They have taken people to court for illegal dumping, but there has not been one single fine levied against anyone. That information came from two seperate sources.