Anti-begging Laws Unconstitutional, Report Charges

Leslie Schentag (wy497@victoria.tc.ca)
Thu, 3 Sep 1998 16:30:00 -0700 (PDT)


This article appeared in today's Victoria Times Colonist. Page A8,
September 3, 1998.

"Anti-begging laws ruled unconstitutional, report charges"

OTTAWA(CP)-Winnipeg city councillors interested in the arguements tthey
will be facing if they support a city bylaw banning panhandling can refer
to a report released Wednesday by an Ottawa-based social policy think
tank.
 In short, it says their bylaw is unconstitutional.
The report, published by the Caledon Institute, attacks the growing number
of the countries cities to legislate panhandlers off the street.
 Besides Winnipeg, the reportnames several cities where panhandling is
already banned, including, Ottawa, Brandon, Oshawa, Sudbury, Kingston,
Charlottetown and Vancouver.
 Each of those cities is violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,
said Arthur Shafer, director of the Center of Professional and Applied
Ethics at the University of Manitoba and author of the report.
 "I can't believe Canadian courts will find it constitutionally
permissable to prevent one person from asking another, in a public place
for help", Shafer said in an interview.
 "I think the courts will find any restrictions to be an unwarranted
violation of basic human rights."
 Shafer argues that asking passerby for money on a street corner is the
same as charities calling people on the phone and asking people for
donations-both are forms of expression.
 He also suggests that panhandlers are within their rights to attemp to
earn a living by begging for money.
 "The criminalization of panhandling is not only an attack upon the income
of begars, it is an assault on their dignaty and self-respect, on their
right to seek self-realization through public interaction with their
fellow citizens," Shafer writes in the report.
 His arguements are are to be put to the test at Manitoba's Court of
Queen's Bench in November.
 The national Anti-Poverty Organization plans to challenge Winnipegs
three-year-old anti-panhandling bylaw, which restricts where, how and when
beggars can solicit money. Violators face a fine of up to $1000.00, a
prison term of up to 6 months, or both.
 If the challenge goes ahead, Shafer will be called as an expert witness.
He says the case will be a first for Canada, though similar laws have been
struck down in the United States.
owever, there's still a chance the court case will be diverted.
 Winnipeg council is sceduled to vote on a comprimise bylaw from the
anti-poverty organization Sept. 9

 That's the article.
1) how do we get in touch with Mr. Shafer and a copy of the report. I
would like to study it.
2.) we should get in touch with the National Anti-Poverty Organization and
link up with them. They could help us formulate a stratagy to tackle the
problem here in BC. Another idea is to get copies of each cities bylaws.
3.) get the use of that toolkit in that message that I just forwarded, it
would be of great help to us.

Another thing would be to hook up with the cities that have the bylaws and
see if they will start a constitutional challenge of the bylaws. We should
get this into court asap and have a precedent set.
 I really can't do that much right now other than email because of the
present system I have now. It's a 386S/16. If i could get an upgraded
system to at least a 486-66, I can get unlimited internet access through
Sprint Canada. Would there be any way of getting the system donated to me
to use. I am pretty much homebound as I have Hep C and suffer from Chronic
Fatigue.

 We should also set up a meeting to start the process. I have to agree
with you that petitions are an exercise in futility. What we need to do is
mobilize the homeless and the poor to vote. When I was working for the
Greens in the last prov. election, I contacted Elections BC and had them
give me the go-ahead to have the homeless register to vote. The major
problem that I was faced with is the general apathy of the poor. 
 What we should do is put together independent candidates to run on a
anti-poverty platform.

These are ideas I have, but I wil say we need to start something now.

L.

  "When Freedom Is Outlawed Only Outlaws Will Be Free"