MLA wants Maple Ridge washrooms unlocked

But access is available, just ask for key, department says

Michael Sather is the NDP MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows.

Go to bathroom before visiting the income assistance office on Lougheed Highway in downtown Maple Ridge because the public washrooms in that building are locked.

That bothers MLA Michael Sather.

“It’s totally ridiculous. I can’t believe it,” Sather said last week.

“It’s a human rights kind of issue.”

Sather, MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, said he’s received a few complaints, though not as many as he’d expect, after the department closed the bathroom to the public about a year ago.

That can mean people waiting in line lose their place if they have to leave the building and find a bathroom elsewhere.

He said he can only conclude that lack of resources means staff just can’t supervise well enough to prevent the facility from being used for drug use.

Instead, known trouble-makers could be barred from the washroom.

“But to make everybody else suffers doesn’t seem right.”

For him, it’s a sign of an under-funded department that can’t afford the staff to adequately supervise the office where people apply for income assistance.

One complaint came from a mom with two young children, Sather said.

He raised the issue in the legislature last week, asking Social Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux why the office closed the bathroom.

“The B.C. Building Code requires that public service buildings provide washrooms, yet the washrooms at the Maple Ridge office have been closed to the clients for a year,” he said in the legislature.

It’s only under “exceptional circumstances” when bathrooms aren’t available, said the ministry.

In the Maple Ridge office, the bathroom is locked, but the key is available by asking the security guard or staff.

“This practice was put into place due to safety concerns, as well as due to frequent vandalism-related repairs and cleaning that was required to maintain the washroom,” said the ministry.

Security guards or staff can also keep the person’s place in line. The department also said one complaint was made while the washroom was closed for renovations.

Clients also are sometimes to directed to other washrooms.

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