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Editorial: The last resort

Law Times reports the Fair Change Community Services Legal Clinic is looking to launch a constitutional challenge to the provincial Safe Streets Act, which bans aggressive panhandling.

The move comes after the clinic said it scored a victory in 2016 after fighting tickets and fines that homeless people had incurred under the act. Lawyers say the act criminalizes people who are impoverished and that tickets issued under the act waste valuable time and resources in provincial courts, increasing delays.

So, then, the potential constitutional challenge by the clinic may be good news for some. The impact from R. v. Jordan is still rippling out across Canada, and the public consciousness about court delays is higher than it was in 1999, when the act was passed.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the courts being overcrowded and not enough judges or facilities and so on, and yet they spend thousands and thousands of dollars and hours of court time oppressing poor people by tickets under the Safe Streets Act,” says Peter Rosenthal, the lawyer who will be acting for the clinic.

Rosenthal has pointed to differing interpretations of s. 15 of the Charter and the shifting of the legal landscape since the last challenge took place. However, it will still be an uphill climb.

In R. v. Banks, 2007 ONCA 19, three Ontario Court of Appeal judges concluded: “The impugned provisions did not violate the appellants’ rights under s. 15(1) of the Charter.”

Rosenthal has said there has been a push for a meeting with Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi. In this case, with changing attitudes to mental health and increased sensitivity to court delays, courts may be a last resort, if legislative change can be achieved.

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