Pubdate: Wed, 29 Nov 2006
Source: Slave River Journal (CN NT)
Copyright: 2006 The Slave River Journal
Author: Min Hun Fong, SRJ Reporter


In an effort to combat drug trafficking and bootlegging in
communities, the GNWT is thinking of introducing a new piece of
legislation that would give community residents more direct power.
However, the proposed Act has already engendered controversy even
before its implementation.

The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act (SCAN) is already in
aplace in other provinces and territories including Manitoba,
Saskatchewan and Yukon. Policy advisor for the GNWT Department of
Justice (DoJ) Jeff MacKey was at the Fort Smith community consultation
meeting held last Tuesday, Nov. 21 at the Roaring Rapids Hall. Mackey
said the Act would contribute to community policing efforts.

"The legislation provides additional tools to law enforces by
encouraging residents to report strange activity regardless of whether
there's hard evidence," Mackey told Smith residents during the
community consultation meeting held last Tuesday, Nov. 22 at Roaring
Rapids Hall. "It allows residents to reclaim a neighbourhood."

The Act, he said, would give residents the power to anonymously report
suspicious activity at a home.

Unlike RCMP investigations, however, SCAN investigators do not need to
acquire hard evidence before they can act on a complaint.

The remedies to the complaint can take several forms -- some informal
and some formal, he added. But if the residents fail to comply with
the informal order, then investigators could obtain a Community Safety
Order (CSO) which is a legally binding court order. The CSO can either
order the closure of a property or order someone to leave a particular
community for a set period of time.

However, Mackey noted that no specific details were set in stone as
they are only just now seeking community input regarding the

"It's not my role to tell people what they should think," said Mackey.
"The program would certainly be adapted for the NWT [as it stands in
other provinces and territories], and that's what we're here to do."

Residents Pipe In

Some 20 Fort Smith residents attended the consultation meeting.
Opinions were split on Tuesday night as to whether the Act would be
good for Fort Smith or not. Grant Paziuk, who owns the Fort Smith
liquor store, said at the meeting that current policing efforts are
not enough.

"The key problem here is the failure of current legislation that does
not allow the RCMP to deal with things such as drug houses and
bootleggers," said Paziuk. "It's the failure of the justice system
which makes it hard to kick tenants out when they're doing something

However, others were not as supportive of the program. Some were
concerned that SCAN would erode civil liberties and create strife in
the Smith community.

"It's polite vigilanteism," said Smith resident Kimberly Harding. "The
Act would engender a fearful community and tear apart the sense of
community that keeps us together."

Others thought the Act needed more discussion and debate before the
government should act one way or another.

"The timeframe is a serious issue," said Fort Smith councillor Brenda
Johnson in response to the GNWT's proposal the Act be legislated as
soon as next year. "[Given the amount of discussion tonight] the Act
is a lot more troublesome than what everyone thought it to be. To put
it through in three months is unrealistic."

The consultation period will end on January 19. The Department of
Justice has a survey set up online where NWT residents can give their
input. The web site address is:
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake