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Ontario Superior Court hears constitutional challenge over Mike Harris-era panhandling law – The Star

February 6, 2024

The organization Fair Change argues the Mike Harris-era Safe Streets Act is discriminatory and locks people into cycles of debt with “astronomical fines.”

In Ontario, a person who panhandles risks racking up tens of thousands of dollars in tickets from police.

This debt, and its subsequent impact on credit scores, can then prevent these individuals from securing basic needs like housing, utilities and a phone.

A legal clinic is now bringing a constitutional challenge against the law that curtails panhandling in Ontario, known as the Safe Streets Act, with a three-day court hearing set to begin Tuesday.

Fair Change, which helps individuals address their panhandling tickets, launched its challenge in 2017, arguing that much of the act should be struck down, as it is discriminatory and locking people into cycles of debt with “astronomical fines.”

Among other things, the law prohibits panhandling that is deemed “aggressive,” such as threats, blocking a person’s path, or soliciting while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. It also bans panhandling to “captive” individuals, which would include people waiting at a bus stop, using an ATM, or getting out of a car in a parking lot. It also doesn’t allow individuals to step onto roads to panhandle.

Read More: https://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/ontario-superior-court-hears-constitutional-challenge-over-mike-harris-era-panhandling-law/article_aac4a602-c1f9-11ee-b58f-538adf84ce35.html

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