Two months ago, U of A law student Scott Meyer was optimistic that he could convince Edmonton Transit to allow students fined for not having their U-Passes on the LRT to get their $250 tickets withdrawn at a later date. But after meeting with members of Edmonton’s law department, Meyer admitted he may have been a little naive.
In preliminary discussions with city officials over the summer, Meyer proposed procedural changes that would give students two to three business days after receiving a ticket to bring their U-Pass or other valid proof of payment to a court clerk and have their fines fully
revoked. Last Thursday, however, city officials sent him a statement rejecting the proposal.
“Our concern in allowing an ‘automatic’ system of withdrawal is that it removes officer and prosecutorial discretion from transit officers and the municipal prosecutor’s office,” the letter read.
Meyer objected to the city’s statement, saying officials had previously decided to hold out on a response due to a lack of statistics on students affected by the fines. In collaboration with the U of A Students’ Union, Meyer had already begun brainstorming ways to provide statistics to the city.
“I’m obviously really disappointed. Especially because they said they weren’t going to make a policy decision until they knew how students were being affected,” he said.
“There’s greater than 70,000 students who now have the U-Pass, so to make a policy decision without knowing what the true effect is was a little disappointing.”
But Meyer said he’s not yet out of options; he’s currently working with the SU to draft a statement on how they plan to move forward.
There are a variety of avenues they can take, Meyer said, and it’s an issue the SU will bring to the upcoming municipal elections, when they plan to ask candidates whether the current fine system is in the best interests of students.
“My personal belief is that students belong in classrooms talking to professors, rather than in courtrooms talking to prosecutors,” he said.
In the meantime, the city’s letter encourages students looking to have their Proof of Payment ticket reviewed to get in touch with ETS security or a prosecutor prior to their trial date.
Meyer said although he would never recommend students go to court, they may have some luck with getting the charges withdrawn if they go to court and the ticketing officer doesn’t show up, or if the court happens to be particularly full that day.
The U of A’s Student Legal Services has also thrown their voices into the mix, agreeing to prepare information about students’ different options in the event of a fine.
“A lot of students do just see the fine and are just like, ‘There’s no way I can take it to court.’ They don’t think to contact a prosecutor or to contact the officer,” Meyer said.
But in spite of the lacklustre response from the city, Meyer said he isn’t deterred in the slightest.
“I’ve been surprised how many e-mails I’ve gotten and how many Facebook messages I’ve gotten from people I’ve never met before,” he said.
“People have said, ‘Well, why aren’t you just letting it go?’ ... But (there’s) the amount of students who have reached out to me and said, ‘You have no idea how much I appreciate you’re doing this.’
“Just for those students that are really going through a tough time, if I can help them even a marginal amount, that’d be really cool.”
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