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How will the new PRC facility allocation policy affect Burnaby residents? Find out.

The new interim policy will prioritize access for people with disabilities, historically underserved and emerging groups

Burnaby City Council voted on Dec. 4 to approve the new parks, recreation, and culture interim facility allocation policy. The new policy comes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, and it will provide a framework for Burnaby parks and recreation and culture (PRC) facilities staff to prioritize access to the city’s facilities. 

Christine Sinclair Community Centre. Photo: City of Burnaby

One of the new policy’s main aims is to prioritize women, girls, people with disabilities, and other underserved groups. The policy mainly applies to community groups and sports groups applying to use a facility for a sports or cultural activity, such as theatre, soccer, or hockey, and members of the general public who may want to rent spaces such as meeting rooms for events. 

According to Rebecca Thandi, director of strategic initiatives, PRC, the new interim policy will cover all City of Burnaby parks, recreation, and culture facilities, including Shadbolt, Christine Sinclair Centre, sports fields in parks, and pools in Bonsor and Edmonds, among other facilities. 

One of the features of the new policy is prioritizing equity and access. The policy comes into play in cases where there is conflict over the use of a facility and as a guideline for staff to resolve it and allocate access accordingly. 

“In the past, there’s been the potential where if a group has always had this space, they always get access to that space. It doesn’t allow for the application of principles of equity and accessibility for emerging groups or sports where traditionally women and girls haven’t really participated in larger numbers,” Thandi told the Beacon. 

Rebecca Thandi, director of strategic initiatives, PRC. Photo: Rebecca Thandi

She gave the example of minor hockey for men and boys potentially having thousands of participants, whereas women’s and girls’ hockey may have only 10. If considered purely in terms of numbers, prioritizing hockey for boys or men would serve more people, but that would not allow women and girls the opportunity to play the sport. 

“So we have to make sure that we’re looking at that as well as new and emerging sports,” Thandi said. 

While the policy stipulates a minimum of 60% Burnaby residents in an activity, facilities will waive the residency requirement in cases where equity is an important consideration. Another example Thandi gave was wheelchair basketball. To create a team, participants may need to gather members from several other Lower Mainland areas, not just Burnaby. 

“We don’t want to say to that group, sorry, you don’t qualify for this space because you don’t meet our general principles. We have to be able to apply the lens of making sure that all our facilities are accessible for all sports,” Thandi said. 

Work on the full, updated policy is in progress and should be completed within the next 18 months. To develop the revised policy, PRC staff members will collect data while the interim policy is in effect and analyze data and statistics related to usage, which they will present to city council and the community. 

In the coming months, Burnaby residents will be able to share their feedback, ideas, and concerns through surveys and other means. Surveys will be both online and available as printed copies at various facilities. 

Speaking at Burnaby council’s meeting on Dec. 4, Coun. Maita Santiago said, “I’m also pleased to see it mentioned how the city recognizes challenges that face girls and women and how this would consider giving them priority if they were in need of such a space for their activities.”  

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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