Who is trying to kill the Riverside Craft Show?

Oct 19, 2011, Huntsville Forester

Why is the Huntsville bylaw department intent on killing the annual craft show at Riverside Public School? The bylaw department is saying that the show’s vendors must have police clearance.

The Riverside Craft Show is the main fundraiser for the school. In the grey days of November, vendors and visitors alike look forward to this bright little show that is so well organized by the teachers. For me, it has always been a favourite place to sell a few of my books. I have been attending farmers’ markets and craft shows with my novels since 2002, and not just in Muskoka. Nowhere has a background check ever been required.

Some vendors, like myself, do not make a great profit, and some are not assured of a profit at all. The cost of a police background check, added to the booth fee and the cost of gas, would be more than some of the vendors could bear.

Don’t get me wrong: if a background check for vendors served a purpose, if it would contribute to public safety, I would be in favour. I had to have this check when I was a driving instructor for Young Drivers of Canada and I had no objections. But asking craft show vendors to get it serves no purpose.

According to the town’s bylaws, a backgrounder check is relevant to persons dealing directly with students on a regular basis. The vendors are not dealing with students and the event is watched over by teachers. If there were any real concerns about safety, they could easily be addressed without imposing another yearly expense on vendors. What is most curious and unsettling about this is that the idea has no basis in law. Indeed, the town bylaws are clear on this. The town bylaws state that the participants in a “special event” must have a background check. Schedule E of bylaw 2009-94 defines what is meant by “special event,” and finishes by stating — “but does not include craft shows.” I repeat, does not include craft shows. Craft shows are not “special events.”

The bylaw department knows that claiming public safety as the reason for a background check is a transparently thin argument. They attempt to surmount this hurdle by claiming that the Riverside Craft Show is not a craft show. The show has, they say, authors and others who are not crafters. Therefore, it is a “special event.” Therefore, a background check is required.

Since when is writing not a craft?

It is the bylaw department’s job to enforce the laws, not to interpret, twist, or redefine them. To help them in this task, definitions of various types of events are spelled out in the bylaws. It is not the bylaw department’s business to tamper with these definitions or to define for themselves what constitutes a craft show. The bylaw enforcers are trying to reinterpret the law. They are also trying to take the task of jurying the craft show away from the organizers. On both counts, they exceed their authority. As a result, the Riverside Craft Show is in disarray and the future is uncertain both for vendors and for school funding.

One can only wonder whose agenda is behind this? Who is trying to destroy the Riverside Craft Show? Please, all who have a stake in this matter, phone or write Mayor Claude Doughty and council. Ask why the bylaw department is trying to reinterpret the law? Ask why they are targeting the Riverside Craft Show. Please spread the word. The school fundraiser is in dire need of your support. So are the vendors.
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