[Hpn] ONTARIO: Court challenge of squeegee law nears
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
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
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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