By Pam Douglas
At the urging of those working in the business, Brampton city councillors may be willing to reconsider their first-of-its-kind decision to licence clowns, magicians and other children’s entertainers.
Committee of Council directed city staff Wednesday to seek input from organizations, agencies and individuals directly impacted by licensing, and any interested members of the public. Staff were asked to then report back to council “with any recommendations or suggestions which may strengthen council’s objective of protecting children in the community”.
City Councillor Grant Gibson said the last few words of that motion— “protecting children in the community”— is what it is all about, and he has learned from the public response that there might be another way.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a bylaw,” Gibson said at Committee of Council Wednesday. “We’re learning that there may be other things that we can do… I’ve heard some ideas from people in the industry.”
He said those in the children’s entertainment business aren’t opposed to looking at ways of protecting children, but “it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of a bylaw.”
Regional Councillor Elaine Moore said councillors have received emails and phone calls from those concerned about exactly what a city bylaw licensing children’s entertainers would look like.
“The mayor raised a good point (in correspondence on the issue)… this was rather a big move for the city where we didn’t provide for any public input,” Moore said.
Despite what Gibson said, Moore pointed out that the motion doesn’t put a stop to staff working toward a bylaw, but she said the public input could “provide some assistance” for staff.
“Many want and deserve an opportunity for input,” she said.
City staff recommended against licensing for several reasons, including difficulty in enforcement, but councillors ignored the advice and directed staff to come up with a licensing system. Clowns and other children’s entertainers told councillors last month they felt the goal— to protect children— was good, but licensing was not the answer.
The decision — the first of its kind in Canada— made headlines across the country.
Councillors said they want children’s entertainers to undergo background checks to weed out pedophiles, and licensing was the only way they believed they could force that to be done.
But most children’s entertainers regularly get background checks and have their own insurance, and provide that information to clients when asked, those in the business told council.
By Pam Douglas