Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jul 2007
Source: Advertiser (CN NF)
Copyright: 2007 Advertiser
Author: Sue Hickey


SCAN sounds like a new piece of medical technology, but you won't 
find it in any hospital.

And if women's and community groups have their way, they don't want 
to have it in the provincial legislature either.

It stands for the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act or Bill 9. 
and it recently passed through the second reading of the House of Assembly.

But its opponents hope that it doesn't become law in October.

Under the proposed act, people can make complaints about residents in 
their neighbourhoods if they suspect them of illegal activities. The 
province would then have the power to evict people from their homes.

"This act allows our government to give residents a way to register 
complaints and to put an end to illegal activities that adversely 
affect or harm a neighbourhood," said provincial justice minister Tom 
Osborne. "Our law enforcement agencies are seeing an increase in drug 
and prostitution-related criminal activity, and this legislation is 
necessary to ensure residents feel safe within our neighbourhoods and 

Leslie MacLeod is the president of the Provincial Advisory Council on 
the Status of Women. She says her organization and others have 
continually expressed their concern.

"We don't like the act at all," she said. "Community groups in the 
Northwest Territories have the same concerns that we do as well. And 
at least one group in Manitoba (where the legislation was first 
introduced) doesn't agree with it.

"They're using civil legislation to deal with criminal behaviour, 
making people move from one place to another."

She says not only is there a criminal code and justice system 
designed to deal with illegal activities, there is the Residential 
Tenancies Act, which provides the do's and don'ts of renting properties.

The "truly scary" part about Bill 9, she says, is that it overrides 
these existing pieces of legislation, along with their safeguards.

The definitions in the bill are also vague, Ms. MacLeod adds. Whereas 
the Criminal Code uses the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt," 
SCAN investigates can go by a "balance of probability" that the 
property is being used for unsafe activities.

"You get people making anonymous reports that someone is doing 
something harmful to the neighbourhood," said Ms. MacLeod. "These new 
investigators will be hired in the fall and it's like a new 
quasi-police force. They're doing surveillance to determine if 
there's something illegal going on. The landlord, or whoever owns the 
property, is required to go in and make the people stop. But if I'm a 
landlord and I think there's a meth lab in the basement I don't want 
to go down in the basement and stop."

She added that the advisory council thinks the bill is a  violation 
of the charter, saying that  criminal activity should be dealt with 
by the justice system.

"We think it can be used to harass neighbours," she said. "The 
province did not do proper consultations on this. "

The legislation, developed in consultation with law enforcement 
agencies and other stakeholder groups, is designed to improve 
community safety by targeting and, if necessary, shutting down 
residential and commercial buildings and land which are habitually 
used for illegal activities such as producing, selling or using 
illegal drugs, as well as prostitution, solvent abuse or the unlawful 
sale and consumption of alcohol.

Budget 2007 provided $237,000 for an investigation unit within the 
Department of Justice that will be in place as early as this fall.

"Manitoba adopted this legislation in 2002. Yet there's no research 
that shows it works to reduce crime," said Ms. MacLeod. "The stats 
only show how many houses have been shut down.

"What about people living in residences who are not involved in 
questionable activities? In real terms, women and children could be 
thrown out onto the streets."
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