SOC323H5 Chapter Notes -Begging, Squeegee

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Published on 28 Nov 2012
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Disorderly people: law and the politics of exclusion in Ontario
Hermer and Mosher
Introduction
August 3, 2001- 13 people (squeegee workers) arrested in Toronto under Ontario Safe Streets Act
Lawyers of defendants argue that Act is unconstitutional, providing police with powers similar to 19th century
vagrancy laws that punished and imprisoned the poor
o Opposing view: Act is a legitimate response to public safety and security
Last 10 years, many Canadian municipalities such as Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver have passed anti-begging
and anti-loitering legislations (Winnipeg later repealed its law and allowed begging only in certain areas)
o Anti-begging laws discriminate against the poor people and infringe their right of expression
o Begging itself poses no harm to others and the poor have full entitlement to use public space
o **Winnipeg recognized that the poor are entitled to be visible and participating in public spaces and that
freedom of expression and equality are fundamental rights guaranteed under the Charter
Safe Streets Act represents first time modern provincial government has enacted provincial statute against
begging conduct in public space
two main anti-begging sections under the Act prohibit soliciting in an „aggressive manner‟ and soliciting to
captive audience
making request by any means questions whether a visibly indigent person would be considered to be soliciting
simply by being present in the wide array of spaced circumscribed by this section
o homeless people have no choice but to hang around in public spaces
the notion of a captive audience works to construct public as vulnerable victims, that are held hostage in public by
beggars
status offences target people on grounds that are suspicious; in relation to vagrancy laws, policing on grounds of
suspicion is a recipe for discrimination
subsection 3(2)(d) of Safe Streets Act prohibits “while on a road, a soliciting of a person who is, in or on a
stopped, standing or parked vehicle”
o Highway Traffic Act- amended to target squeegee workers by prohibiting conduct of stopping, attempting
to stop or approaching a motor vehicle for purposes of offering, selling or providing any
commodity/service
Defence lawyers Mary Birdsell and Peter Rosenthal argue the Safe Streets Act:
o Constituted an invasion by province of Federal government‟s exclusive jurisdiction over criminal law
under the Constitution act
o Infringed upon right to freedom of expression guaranteed by section 2(b) of the Charter
o Infringed upon life, liberty and security of person pursuant to section 7 of Charter by a) denying economic
rights necessary for survival and b) by being overly broad and vague penal legislation
o Infringed upon right to equality within meaning of section 15 of Charter
Judge who convicted the 13 defendants found infringement of freedom of expression to be justified under s.1
limitation on freedom of expression reasonable because the Act protects public safety
Squeegee kids considered either lazy and often dangerous locusts that take advantage of public
Dianne Martin- emphasis on disorder has created climate where poverty and other expressions of social and
economic inequality are translated into narrow questions of criminal justice/law and order
Bill O‟Grady and Robert Bright- map out everyday experiences of squeegee workers (segment of homeless
population that has specifically been targeted by Safe Streets Act) as a disorder group that needs to be controlled
o Argue that squeegee work provides subsistence activity available to homeless youth
o Safe Streets Act may force youth to engage in risky behaviour just to make a living
Squeegee workers largely removed from public view
Janet Mosher (professor)- discourse that portrays the poor as undeserving, lazy and criminal and a threat to public
order and safety
o increasing marginalization, deepening of stereotypes and banishing of the poor from community
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