Residents of the Schaffe Road area in West Kelowna are concerned about the safety and sanitation of their neighbourhood due to what they call temporary agricultural “slums.”
Colin Crabbe spoke during a public hearing on the issue this week and reminded city councillors it was just a year ago when a seemingly high woman living on one of those properties pushed her way into his home on Scharf Road, while only his wife and children were there. He pointed out that “something needs to be done” about the conditions the temporary workers have been living in.
“People who use these facilities are the most vulnerable to exploitation of farm owners,” he said.
He also claimed property damage and crime has skyrocketed in the area and there is a need for oversight and enforcement.
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“These temporary agricultural ‘slums’ have been a source of regular seasonal crime and I believe that without revising the bylaw they will continue to put the community at risk,” Crabbe said.
Sheila Kennedy, another resident of Scharf Road, is also tired of dealing with the problems related to temporary farm-worker housing.
She wrote a letter describing the “deplorable” conditions that at least one property owner subjects his temporary workers to.
Kennedy lives directly across from the fourplex that Sarwan Gidda, of TBA Farms uses to house temporary workers.
Kennedy has said there were several instances since dating back to 1994 when people arrived at her door in an alarming condition, and she believes they were from Gidda’s property.
In one case her sister-in-law had a blood-covered man knock one night after being stabbed. In another, she had a French man knock and ask to use a proper shower after only being able to use a garden hose in the accommodation he was provided.
“There’s a dilapidated trailer on that property…in the spring we will have all these tenters, it’s all the drinkers and the partiers, and there is nothing done about it,” Kennedy said.
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“What kind of impression are we giving these foreign workers of Canada when they go home with conditions like this?” Kennedy said.
Gidda says that the photos are of a different farm, and that he is not in violation of any bylaws.
“Those pictures are false, maybe 10, 15 years ago that is what we had to do. If you look there now there is no one camping, everyone has accommodation,” Gidda said.
Gidda only has tenters on his property during cherry picking season for 10 days at a time due to the short picking time.
Gidda said that he believes he’s being blamed for the issue due to racism.
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Crabbe isn’t worried about pointing fingers.
He wants to improve the living standard for the temporary foreign workers and therefore the rest of the neighbourhood.
Council has been working to to find resolutions that create additional regulations regarding the use and quantity of RVs and tents for temporary workers investigating other possible zoning bylaw amendments that will require proper washrooms and bathing facilities for agricultural workers, including those staying in tents.
Council will hear the bylaw amendment once more before deciding on whether or not to adopt the changes.
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