Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Begging For Justice

You can't throw a pebble in downtown Toronto without hitting three new condo developments or panhandlers in various states of intoxication, sanity or temperment asking for spare change.

There are no easy answers to this problem, though there are many simple ones.

Leave it to their self-appointed advocates, however, to propose one that doesn't help them get back on their feet:

The law that bans squeegee kids from asking motorists for money and washing windshields in return violates the constitutional protection for free speech, the Ontario Court of Appeal was told yesterday.

"Both the purpose and the effect of the law is to restrict speech," lawyer Frank Addario told the court on behalf of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which is intervening in the appeal of the Safe Streets Act, a law passed by the province in 1999 to outlaw aggressive panhandling and squeegee-cleaning.

Since it was passed, the validity of the law, which has been upheld in two lower court hearings, has been questioned by civil libertarians and supporters of street people, the former arguing that it violates free speech and the latter that it discriminates against the poor as a class of people.

If the Safe Streets Act is overturned, not a single homeless person will be helped, but their well-heeled "friends" will be congratulating themselves about having torn down another neo-conservative Harris regime legacy.

Which in the end, is what this court challenge is about. The wastrel or lunatic on the corner of Yonge and Dundas couldn't care less about an empty legal right to beg; in their more lucid moments, they want off the streets and back into society.

The poor we will always have with us, but that's not an excuse to use them as a political weapon.

Source: Globe and Mail


primvs pilvs said...

I wonder if these idiots would be so quick to defend the right to print the mohammed cartoons? If they can panhandle on a city street then I should be able to walk along the 401.

Robert McClelland said...

Nice try, but squeegee kids are not synonomous with panhandling. They performed a service in exchange for payment and Harris made it illegal for them to do so. In other words, he stopped them from working. And having lived and driven in downtown Toronto at the time, I can asure you that they were not the menace they were made out to be. They were at worst, an occasional minor inconvenience.

Loyalist said...

If a man runs on to my front lawn with a mop and a bucket of dirty water and cleans my windows, and then shouts obscenities at me for not paying him when he came on to my property without permission, that is not making a living. That is not even solicitation. That is trespassing.

If he threatens to camp on my front lawn or street until I pay him, that is extortion.

The squeegee kids provided no service; they were an annoyance, and in city traffic, a dangerous one.