Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

‘UNWANTED GUEST’: MIGHT YOU FALL INTO THIS CATEGORY?

Posted by strattof on October 22, 2015

“Unwanted guest” is a new initiative of Regina Police Service, based on legislation under the 2009 provincial Trespass to Property Act. Its purpose, according to RPS, is to allow “businesses to ban individuals who repeatedly cause problems on their property.”

Activities that could lead to a ban include “being intoxicated, harassing customers, shoplifting, etc.” Nowhere is it specified exactly what activities can give rise to a ban. Hence much is left to the discretion of police officers and business owners, allowing room for influence by stereotypes.

There are already laws prohibiting shoplifting and drunken and violent behaviour. Who is the unwanted guest initiative targeting?

HOW TO BAN AN ‘UNWANTED GUEST’

It’s really quite simple. All a business owner or manager has to do to ban an individual from the property is:

  1. Notify the individual that he/she is banned from the property and for how long.
  2. Call the police, while at the same time getting as much information about the individual as possible.
  3. Fill out a ban form.

Consequences of a ban for the banned individual are pretty dire:

  • The ban will be placed on the individual’s profile on the police database for future reference.
  • If the ban is violated, a $250 offence ticket will be issued.

The ban procedure does not seem to include an appeal process—an opportunity for the banned individual to appeal the ban.

The “unwanted guest” initiative was introduced in downtown Regina in May 2015. In its first three months of operation, it resulted in 133 bans and 35 offence tickets. In September, the initiative was expanded to all areas of the city.

WHO IS BEING TARGETED?

  • Panhandlers are a clear target of the “unwanted guest” initiative. It is a replacement for the Tag Day Bylaw which police had previously used for panhandlers. This bylaw was removed in 2009 by City Council, as courts had found that municipal bans against panhandling violated panhandlers Charter-protected rights to freedom of expression, fundamental justice, and equal treatment before the law.
  • Homeless people, poor people, Indigenous people, people experiencing mental illness and addiction issues: they are also likely targets.

To issue bans and subsequent tickets amounts to “the breakdown of common places in our community [and] criminalizing the survival and experiences of homelessness or addictions or mental illness.”—Tyler Gray, Carmichael Outreach

PANHANDLING: AN OFFENCE OR PUBLIC SERVICE?

Why is there so much outrage in our city when poor people ask for money? Is it because it reminds us of an unpleasant truth: that we live in an unjust society, one in which the rich continue to get richer and the poor poorer?

Prohibiting panhandling restricts the Charter right of poor people to speak about their situation. It also limits the opportunities other citizens have to learn the truth about our society.

Do you know

  • That Regina’s shelter system is filled to capacity?
  • That the Regina Food Bank gets approximately 8,000 requests a month?
  • That many Regina families have to choose between paying the rent and buying groceries?

This is the message Regina panhandlers are conveying: the system is broken and we need to fix it. Let’s listen.

N O   L O I T E R I N G 

Since the “unwanted guest’ initiative was introduced in May, signs, such as the one above from Tim Hortons on the corner of 11th and Broad, have begun to appear in coffee shops, fast food outlets, and restaurants around the city.

The sign reads: “Please be advised that Restaurant Seating is for paying guests only and subject to a time limit at Management Discretion. NO LOITERING.”

Will the “No Loitering” rule be applied in a fair manner to all? Or will it be used to discriminate against particular groups of individuals?

TAKE ACTION

  • Visit the CHEW ON THIS website and learn how poverty can be eliminated in Canada.
  • If you belong to the dominant culture (i.e. are white and middle class) test out the “No Loitering” rule to see if it is being applied fairly. Go to an establishment that displays a “No Loitering” sign and stay for awhile without ordering. Observe who, if anyone, is asked to leave. If you are asked to leave, do so immediately.
  • Let your City Councillor know you do not approve of the “unwanted guest” initiative and why.
  • If you happen to be a lawyer, offer to test the constitutionality of the “unwanted guest” initiative or seek out a colleague who is trained in this area of law.

 

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