Image courtesy of Jing Zhao
Image courtesy of Jing Zhao

By: Elizabeth Iwunwa

On the twenty-ninth of August, residents of Brown’s Court and Queen Street were notified of the permanent closure of the gate connecting the two streets. The announcement read that the action was to take place in two days. For the most part, the demographic of that area comprises a majority of university students. Many students report that they happened upon this information by an anonymous post on social media.
The scope of this issue is not limited to university students alone however. Senior citizens who have used this route to get from place to place routinely, now have to find another alternative route with a new set of hassles. Before the gate was permanently shut, there was a sign that had opening and closing hours for the gate. Various students have told the Cadre that it appears to have never been followed. This seems to be the sign in our picture that is now covered with ‘Private Property’ signs. Perhaps a reasonable compromise would be to enforce this curfew.
As the unifying body of UPEI students, the UPEISU promptly communicated with the city via email. In an email to the Cadre the Student Union President, Dana Kenny said, “we were examining Charlottetown’s Street Closure Bylaw and section 2.7 defines a “street” as ‘any street, highway, sidewalk, alley, avenue, or other public way or public grounds in the City‘; this pathway clearly falls under that definition. It then continues to say that it would be unlawful for any person to permanently close any street without first obtaining permission from the City Council of Charlottetown. The Student Union would like to know if permission was properly attained?”
From the information presented above, it seems that due process and proper procedure has not been followed. A review of the City’s bylaws also state that it is the duty of the Public Works Manager who happens to be Paul Johnston, to publicly give at least a four week notice containing a full description of the street to be closed. This is to be done by publishing the description in four consecutive issues of the Royal Gazette and one local newspaper in the City of Charlottetown. In addition, it describes as unlawful for the City of Charlottetown to close any street without providing an alternate route for any property owners abutting on the said street which is to be closed. For what reason should taxpayers be denied access to a pathway paid for, with their hard-earned money?
In his reaction to the UPEISU’s email, Paul Johnston said, “the city path from Queen Street toward Brown’s Court ends at the boundary of the West Emerald Enterprises lot. Pedestrian travel from the end of Brown’s Court to that path and vice-versa was over that private property. West Emerald Enterprises has chosen to fence their lot line and no longer permit passage through to the Queen Street path, such as any private property owner may choose to fence their property. The city is aware of the impact of this situation and is looking for a solution or reasonable alternate, though at this early stage we have as yet to identify what that might be”.

It appears that there is a disagreement between the City and the Student Union over the interpretation of the bylaw. However, no matter the interpretation it is clear that most students hope a “reasonable alternative” can be found soon. There are concerns around safety and convenience. Now that the gate has been closed, the commute time of residents has increased. The Cadre sent a reporter to the scene to time herself taking the closest public route. The video is linked at the end of this article. This single factor does have effect on workers’ performance on their respective jobs and in turn, the productivity and overall economy of the city. With the fast approaching winter and the dangers of the weather, one can only imagine how inconvenient travel on the alternative route will be. Young people especially women may be placed at higher risks of assault due to night-time walking. The onus is and will always be on the city to serve and protect its residents.
If you have issues, concerns, and opinions regarding this article, do not hesitate to contact me via email at eiwunwa@upei.ca.