Hay River Mayor Kelly Schofield said the Town’s lawyers were contacted earlier this month to examine the matter. The Town’s current business license bylaw regulates the licensing of businesses in Hay River, but not the type of business or the merchandise sold by the business. Schofield said he is taking direct aim at vendors who sell knives, marijuana flags and pipes, and other drug paraphernalia. Schofield said he knows there are potential human rights issues with the plan.
“I know it’s going to be a tough one,” he said Feb. 10. “But I think it’s worth fighting for.”
“Who’s more important? Our kids or some guy who comes into town trying to sell his wares. In my opinion I think … we have to look out for the kids.”
Schofield said many of the vendors often set up at various locations downtown – in close proximity to a number of local schools.
“(The students are) coming out at lunchtime, or their break, and running over to these guys, buying their stuff and then heading back to school,” he said. “This stuff is getting into the schools and I don’t think that’s right.”
Local youth can sometimes face challenges making the right decisions, Schofield continued. The bylaw review would give town administration a better understanding of what can and can’t be done to protect youth.
Taking the items out of the “line-of-sight” of youth will make it less attractive to them, Schofield predicted.
“When I was young I remember that when those guys came to town we flocked to them, to see what we had for marijuana paraphernalia cause it was cool,” Schofield recalled. “It was the ‘in’ thing to do.”
The challenge, Schofield admitted, would be to ensure other vendors selling items like food, handicrafts and clothing would be exempt from the changes.
“We don’t want to stop the fruit truck vendors from coming in,” he said. “We don’t want to touch them – they’re fine. It is the people who are targeting our young market with stuff that will sway their influence to tobacco and drugs.”
Schofield said he hopes to receive an answer from the town’s lawyers in the coming weeks.
“It’s definitely going to be a tough fight.”