Cases & Decisions

R v Banks [Challenge of the Safe Streets Act]

Court: Ontario Court of Appeal, 2006

JFCY represented some young people who were ticketed under the Safe Streets Act for squeegeeing and panhandling.  The defendants challenged the constitutionality of the Safe Streets Act, 1999 (the Act), on several grounds. The Act prohibits squeegeeing and “aggressive panhandling” with penalties under the Provincial Offences Act.  On behalf of the defendants in the case, JFCY argued that the Act offends the Constitution in the following ways:

  1. the Act is essentially criminal law, which is not within the jurisdiction of the province.
  2. the Act is a restriction on the Charter right to freedom of speech (s.2(b)), in that it prohibits many forms of asking for money.
  3. the Act infringes the Charter right to life, liberty, and security of the person (s.7), because it prevents people from earning money to eat.
  4. the Act infringes the Charter right to equality (s.15) because ‘legitimate’ soliciting of charities is exempted under the Act, while soliciting by the poor is made illegal.
  5. the Act infringes the Charter right to be presumed innocent (11(d)), because the definition of “aggressive” panhandling includes many activities that most people would not consider to be aggressive.

The hearing of the appeal at the Ontario Court of Appeal was held over two days in late February of 2006.  The Court released its decision in which it upheld the constitutionality of the Act on January 16, 2007. Our application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was dismissed on August 23, 2007.

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