[Hpn] ONTARIO: Court challenge of squeegee law nears

Graeme Bacque graeme.bacque@3web.net
Thu, 04 Jan 2001 09:12:32 -0500

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Court challenge of squeegee law nears

Peter Rosenthal will argue next week that
Ontario's Safe Streets Act violates the
Charter of Rights, GAY ABBATE reports

Thursday, January 4, 2001

The law that forced Ontario's squeegee people off the streets -- the Safe 
Streets Act -- will face its first constitutional challenge in court next week.

On Monday, an Ontario Court judge will be asked to dismiss about 100 
tickets issued by Toronto Police to squeegee people and panhandlers because 
the year-old law violates their constitutional rights, said Peter 
Rosenthal, one of two lawyers who will argue the case.

"The province should have called the legislation the Mean and Silly Streets 
Act," said Mr. Rosenthal.

The Safe Streets Act, enacted in December, 1999, was the province's 
response to public concerns about the increasing number of squeegee people 
on city corners who dashed into traffic, demanding money for washing 

The act's preamble states that it is designed to "promote safety in 
Ontario" by forbidding people to stop cars and offer to wash windshields 
for cash or anything else of value, and by outlawing panhandling and 
disposing of syringes or used condoms in public places. Begging by people 
who are drunk or high on drugs is also banned.

Penalties range from $500 for a first offence to $1,000 or six months in 
jail, or both, for repeat offenders.

Mr. Rosenthal said the act infringes on three sections of the Charter of 
Rights and Freedoms. He will cite Section 7, which states that "everyone 
has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not 
to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of 
fundamental justice."

He said the restriction on soliciting alms contravenes those rights. "The 
act makes it very difficult to legally beg. It prevents people in need from 
asking others for help and that is a charter violation."

He said he will also argue the act infringes on the Charter's Section 2(b), 
which guarantees the fundamental right to freedom of expression, and 
Section 15, which states everyone is equal under the law.

"The act discriminates against poor persons within the meaning of the 
charter," Mr. Rosenthal said.

He said his defence will also include the argument that the province lacks 
the jurisdiction to pass the Safe Streets Act, which can lead to 
imprisonment, because only the federal government has the power to enact 
criminal law.

The judge hearing the Charter challenge can dismiss the tickets if he 
believes Charter rights have been violated. However, he does not have the 
power to declare the act unconstitutional.

Whatever the outcome, Mr. Rosenthal said, the case will be appealed to the 
Ontario Superior Court, where he hopes a judge will throw out the act.

If the tickets are dismissed, he said, the Crown has promised him that 
police will be directed to stop issuing any more tickets.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association will seek intervenor status at 
Monday's hearing so that it, too, can mount a Charter challenge. But the 
judge at this lower court level may not have authority to grant intervenor 
status, said Alan Borovoy, the association's general counsel.

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