MyHalifaxCa – Panhandlers

Its time to deal with the problem

Public reaction to panhandling

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A negative reaction to panhandling by a substantial proportion of the public has prompted many local governments to attempt to control panhandling through legislation as well as program approaches that assist panhandlers to “get off the street”.

Anti-panhandling by-laws often impose regulations on the time, place, and manner of panhandling. Regarding the manner in which panhandling occurs by-laws generally target panhandling behavior that is persistent, intimidating, obstructive, and/or threatening.

There are several examples of restrictive legislation enacted by municipalities in an attempt to control the presence of Panhandlers. Typically the bi-laws address the situation by either establishing time of day restrictions or by limiting areas where panhandlers can operate.

The reaction from Poverty Rights groups is predictable; their assertion that this type of legislation unfairly targets the poor has usually been enough to stop the politicians from even proposing these bi-laws. We live in a province where recent legislation has crossed those lines and enforced new restrictions for the health & safety of the population at large.

All the laws in the country are worthless if they are not enforced, consistently, fairly and firmly. As important is the need for a judicial system that follows the lead of the police and actually sentences the offenders in accordance with the law.

Several months ago the Motor Vehicle Act of Nova Scotia was amended to make it illegal for anyone to solicit funds from the occupants of automobiles by approaching while in traffic. Often referred to as the “Squeegee Kid Law “this amendment has had two effects; firstly it has dramatically reduced the frequency of being solicited when in your car at intersections and secondly it has ‘moved’ most of the squeegee kids off their favorite corner to new locations where they now panhandle.

Nova Scotia passed the Smoking in Public Places Act and prohibits anyone from smoking within 15 feet of any doorway or entrance, but the need to ‘run the gauntlet’ of panhandlers at many doorways is a daily occurrence. I’ve counted nine individuals requesting financial support within 20 feet of the door at Tim Hortons on Barrington at Sackville.

Are new laws required?

The Criminal Code of Canada has several sections that would cover a lot of the problems associated with panhandling if charges were filed. The Protection of Private Property Act, Causing a Disturbance, Harassment, Threats, Vagrancy, and Theft, all would carry fines or incarceration if a conviction was reached. There is reluctance to file charges because of the time commitment required by the Police and Prosecution Services for little or no provable benefit.

I feel that as part of a coordinated approach to panhandling there should be some consideration given t bi-laws preventing solicitation within 50 feet of any doorway or outside deck of any food establishment.


Written by lesmuise

October 28, 2008 at 12:05 am

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