Nanaimo Port Authority recently received the following disturbing message from Catherine K Davis of Nanaimo:

My name is Cathy Davis. I am the widow of a longshoreman who was killed in 1979. I was left with four small children when my husband was killed. My oldest son was born three weeks after the accident. As you can imagine I had a difficult time raising four children without their father and with only a widows pension. I am legally blind with few options for employment. I did not want to be on welfare.

I started playing on the street in 1984 in front of Terminal Park liquor store. I made 65 dollars a day which provided shoes and food for my kids. I took the music program at Malaspina College to better my musical skills so I could make myself a bettter musician.

I was raped and severely beaten on my way home from work in 1987. I continued to play on the street despite being told by the police that had I not been a busker I would not have been raped. Now I had five children not four. I was proud of the fact that I could earn my own living even though I had disabilities. After the rape and beating I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

In May of 2003 the City Of Nanaimo passed a street entertainers bylaw that myself and my brother, who is also a busker, felt was discriminatory and unenforcible. We sent delegations to council and tried to organise the other street entertainers to no avail. It is hard to organise when everyone is scrambling just to get by.

Frustrated by the bylaw we protested by giving back our licences and protesting on the street. We played music and had large signs asking the public not to give us money as we were protesting something that we felt was wrong. The public threw money at us anyway. The City of Nanaimo gave us tickets for performing without a licence and we disputed the tickets stating that we were protesting.

Instead of allowing us the normal process to dispute the tickets, the city got an injunction on September 26, 2003, to compel us to comply with the bylaw. We could not afford a lawyer and the judge granted the injunction without allowing us to give our statement of defence.

Since that time every street entertainer is compelled to comply with the bylaw. I have been harassed, threatened and intimidated by bylaw officers, the police, and the Nanaimo Port Authority. I feel that our right to protest was taken away from us. Our right to freedom of association costs us money because we have to pay extra to perform as a group. Our right to freedom of expression is limited to yellow, pink, or blue spots which are in terrible locations without shelter from the rain or the sun.

Our working conditions are horrendous. Since the bylaw was passed it is almost impossible for us to earn a living on the street. I am not in a union but once upon a time I worked in the fishing industry pulling herring roe in Prince Rupert. My husband was a Longshoreman as I said. Street entertainers don’t panhandle, they work hard in terible conditions. Can you help us?

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