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Ontario won’t see hooker eviction bill before 2011 election

NDP talks down the clock on 'safer communities' legislation

SCAN. Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi's private member's bill would have set up a quasi-judicial board to investigate anonymous complaints made by residents about their neighbours. Credit: Marcus McCann photo

Liberal MPP Nasir Naqvi could do little as the NDP’s Cheri DiNovo filibustered, effectively shutting down debate on his Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods legislation — colloquially known as SCAN — when it reached the provincial legislature’s standing committee on regulations and private bills on Nov 25.

“It’s been fun speaking at you,” DiNovo told the committee. “I’ll cede the floor now, but thank you for listening.”

And with that, Naqvi’s Bill 106 was all but dead. The bill isn’t officially off the table, but DiNovo’s move ensures it will be stuck at a procedural standstill during this session of the legislature.

Naqvi made enemies of a bevy of housing advocates when he introduced the private member’s bill. A version of SCAN is already law in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and BC.

A 2007 press conference with Naqvi and the city’s chief of police was disrupted by sex-work advocates. Uniformed police officers flanked the speakers, and behind them protesters held signs that said “Sex work is work” and “Canada’s sex laws are indecent.”

The bill would have created a quasi-judicial body to investigate and resolve anonymous complaints made by residents about their neighbours. If certain conditions are met, tenants under investigation can be kicked out of their homes indefinitely. Critics say it lowers the burden of proof for eviction, circumvents criminal law and could leave landlords on the hook for tenants’ bad behaviour.

Naqvi’s Bill 106 was ostensibly intended to make neighbourhoods safer, but critics — and there were many — charged that the bill flew in the face of tenants’ constitutional rights.

“We’re happy to have the funeral service for it,” says Rob MacDonald of Housing Help, an agency that helps low-income tenants understand their rights.

The bill would have given the province the power to evict tenants based on “a balance of probabilities” that illegal activity, including sex work, was occurring on their premises.

Naqvi insists that the legislation was respectful of tenants, despite claims to the contrary from opponents.

“Bill 106 is far more progressive” than other SCAN laws across Canada, he says. “We learned from the experiences of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.”

Naqvi was willing to entertain amendments, and even had some of his own, but many organizations had no intention of supporting the bill. The BC Civil Liberties Association is one such group. It effectively argued against the introduction of SCAN legislation in the Northwest Territories.

Although proponents of the bill suggest that SCAN laws work fine in other provinces and have never been challenged in court, policy director Micheal Vonn said that a bill doesn’t have to be challenged to be unconstitutional.

“It is a tremendous challenge, while the clock is ticking and your resources are minimal, to mount even a residential tenancy challenge, which is an administrative tribunal,” she says. “What would it take to get to court? I’m a lawyer and even I can’t afford a lawyer.”

Vonn says her calculations suggest that the average three-day civil trial costs about $20,000, a sum far beyond the capacity of many tenants who might want to challenge SCAN laws.

DiNovo declined to speak with Xtra about the bill.

For more information about either group, go to the to the BCCLA or Housing Help websites.
bccla.org.
housinghelp.on.ca.

Read the full text of the bill here.