Haida Gwaii Bike Re-Psych is at risk of losing its home.
On May 28, the volunteer bicycle society, which has helped residents fix and build bicycles behind the Queen Charlotte Youth Centre since 2011, took to social media to ask supporters to send letters to the Village of Queen Charlotte council.
“We have been asked to move out of the QC youth centre and we are asking for your support,” the post said.
The post followed a presentation founder and director Steve Querengesser made to council at the regular meeting on May 20.
“We have received a letter requesting us to leave our current location, which is at the youth centre,” Querengesser said during his presentation. “I just wanted to ask for the village’s support in being able to continue to run our program either at the youth centre or another place.”
Chief administrative officer Lori Weideman told the Observer she provided a verbal, operational update to council on Feb. 19 prior to sending an email to Querengesser on Feb. 24, to notify him that the village would be taking over exclusive use of the bike shed at the youth centre, effective March 23.
However, Weideman sent the email to the wrong address and Querengesser did not receive it until April 1, after he contacted Weideman to discuss opening Bike Re-Psych in line with pandemic rules.
Querengesser said the two subsequently met, but for him the meeting was “disappointing.”
“At the beginning of the meeting I was told that she had moved on and that there wasn’t too much to discuss, and that she was ready to just have us leave the space and have another group come in,” he told council.
“I would really love to have some support from the village, whether it’s at that space or a new space.”
The notice of eviction apparently stemmed at least partly from an incident involving one of Bike Re-Psych’s volunteers, who is alleged to have been rude to youth centre staff and left a mess in the washroom facilities.
“I heard there was an incident with a specific volunteer who used the washroom facilities and was disrespectful,” Querengesser said. “I was shocked and upset.”
The volunteer was asked to apologize to the youth centre staff and Querengesser said he thought the incident had been dealt with, until he received the eviction notice.
Following Querengesser’s presentation, councillor Jesse Embree thanked him for his work in the community.
“I have used their services … I really appreciate what they do. I think it’s unfortunate the circumstance we find ourselves in,” Embree said, noting the communication challenges.
“I’d like to be able to find a way that we can move forward on this and find a way to let you stay in the space.”
Mayor Kris Olsen said he knew Bike Re-Psych was part of planning the youth centre “right from the start.”
“We just appreciate you coming forward and I think you’ve given council a lot to discuss,” Olsen said.
“I hope that we can find a solution that fits everyone’s needs.”
During the public input portion of the meeting, several community members spoke out about the eviction notice.
“Is eviction necessary during our pandemic?” Sian Nalleweg said.
“I hope this can be forgiven and everyone can move forward together for our community, and especially our youth.”
Given the positive impact of Bike Re-Psych, Jennifer White said she was astounded to hear they had been “somewhat unceremoniously dumped.”
“Very curious to hear what the due process was to reach this decision and what the recourse is,” White said.
Olsen replied the recourse was having Querengesser have a conversation with council as a delegate.
“We’re going to be going back and having a conversation regarding the matter,” Olsen said of council.
Embree asked Weideman if she wanted to speak to the question, since the decision “was an operational one and not brought to council first.”
“I have previously shared with council what some of the concerns were with the conflict,” Weideman said.
“The challenges that we were having were mostly related to the individuals using the services and the additional pressure that was put on our youth program in answering questions about it, and knowing whether or not it was open.”
Still, community members continued to speak out about the eviction notice at the next regular council meeting on June 1.
“Haida Gwaii Bike Re-Psych’s name and programs were used for grant applications as well as their formal written support. They invested their own money in the space to personalize it. It is a successful volunteer organization supplying learning to youth and adults,” Carol Kulesha said. “At a time when volunteerism is low, we need to be respectful and supportive of volunteer organizations.”
Greg Martin also urged council not to evict Bike Re-Psych.
“I continue to place a high value on the Bike Re-Psych volunteer program, as did the previous VQC council,” Martin said. “Bike Re-Psych was an active partner in creating our VQC bicycle network plan in 2017.”
Olsen said council had been receiving a number of emails from concerned citizens and the issue was expected to be coming back to the regular meeting on June 15.
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