Pubdate: Mon, 18 Jun 2007
Source: Gulf News, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2007 Gulf News
Author: Natalie Musseau, The Gulf News


Advocacy groups across the province continue to raise concerns about
the province's new Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) Act.
It's information to which everyone should be paying attention.

The new law, passed last week, allows government to evict people from
their homes if they are involved with illegal activities such as
selling or using drugs, prostitution or unlicensed liquor sales.
Little had been said about the proposed legislation until the
controversy started by the women's groups over the consultation process.

Allegations can be made anonymously leaving the door to abuse of the
new law wide open. There's little to prevent people from using the law
to harass others or evict tenants without cause. Little, if anything,
has been said about appeal procedures or recourses open to those
accused under the new act.

As a civil law, investigations under the SCAN Act need not prove the
allegations 'beyond reasonable doubt' as in a criminal action. They
only need to satisfy the less stringent 'balance of probability'
requirement. Certainty is no longer needed before moving forward with
these actions, which may never see a criminal courtroom.

There are already criminal laws in place to address the illegal
activities at which the legislation is aimed. If police forces cannot
work within the requirements of those laws, why doesn't government
address that problem instead of inventing new laws to address the same

While some of the criminal laws are federal, there are other provinces
coming up with legislation similar to Newfoundland's SCAN Act. This
should point to a systemic problem that needs to be addressed at the
root, not patched with unworkable provincial legislation.

The $237,000 announced in the province's budget will not go far in
establishing an investigation unit and hiring investigators. It would
have been better spent on regular police services instead of a special
unit with its own rules.

The thought behind the SCAN Act -- making our communities safer places
- -- can hardly be argued against. However, there is simply too much
room for trouble in the application of the law. It infringes on
citizens' rights without the guarantee of a safer community in the

Government doesn't need to reinvent the wheel, just fix what's broken
in the existing criminal justice system.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek