The spread of anti-student bylaws

Will Hamilton be smart enough to avoid Oshawa’s misguided, anti-student moves?

Last year, the City of Oshawa launched what I consider to be an anti-student campaign which began with a series of municipal law enforcement raids to harass students. These cumulated in the passing of Canada’s strongest anti-student housing bylaw.

This year, many other communities are looking at passing similar bylaws in an attempt to solve their “student problem.” One of these communities is my hometown, and current place of residence, Hamilton, Ontario. Hamilton enjoys the presence of two post-secondary institutions: McMaster University and Mohawk College.

Both institutions have large student populations and, surprise, many of these students prefer to live within walking distance of schools. This practical decision does not sit well with older residents of the communities surrounding the schools who prefer their suburban vision of the neighbourhood to the campus town vision of the students.

As the number of students at both schools has increased, there have been more encounters between the two groups and tensions have grown.

The non-student residents, or “permanent residents” as they prefer to call themselves, want a bylaw which will decrease the number of students living in “their” community.

Thankfully, Hamilton is not Oshawa and I very much doubt that a similar bylaw will pass here. At the very least, the worse practices of the Oshawa process will not be repeated here.

There will be no police raids, no ignoring of student opinion, and less of the blatant anti-student behaviour of Oshawa.

Brian McHattie, the city councillor representing the neighbourhoods surrounding McMaster, is actively engaging student opinion. He has formed a committee to look at the issue with students holding the majority of the committee seats.

Hopefully, Hamilton will not pass a bylaw similar to Oshawa’s. Right now, Oshawa is in the middle of a major student housing crisis and many students hold negative feelings towards the city. Considering the importance of knowledge workers to the economic health of a city, I hope the City of Hamilton is more wiser than Oshawa and continues to welcome young people to the city.

I wrote a solid opinion piece for The Silhouette on the topic last week. You can read it online.

RELATED: Students versus the world, Sept. 20, 2007

UPDATE: Councillor McHattie and I are discussing the issue on The Silhouette website here.