lazy justice endangers us all

Yukon residents clearly want action to curb the territory’s growing drug problem. But the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act isn’t…

Yukon residents clearly want action to curb the territory’s growing drug problem.

But the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act isn’t the solution everyone had hoped for.

In fact the law, which was hastily cobbled together and passed in the spring in anticipation of October’s territorial election, is proving to be a dangerous bit of work.

Here’s why.

This week, the government forced the eviction of some people living in a trailer in the Kopper King neighbourhood, the first such action under the new law.

“All we’re concerned about with the safer communities legislation is to stop the activity,” said Justice spokesman Dan Cable.

But if you look at how the so-called SCAN law worked this week, the government wasn’t concerned about stopping any drug-related activity at all.

Because of SCAN, the drug activity will now just move somewhere else.

Here’s how it worked.

The SCAN office received an anonymous complaint from someone. It could have been an elderly neighbour or a savvy drug dealer trying to eliminate a rival, we don’t know.

Beyond that, there’s little information.

We assume the SCAN office’s secret pseudopolice staked out the house to see what was going on.

Apparently, they determined that something was “probably” going on.

And, in investigators’ opinions, it was adversely affecting the neighbourhood.

How? Justice officials haven’t said.

But they approached the landlord. And working with them, the government evicted the tenants. Neighbourhood problem solved, neat and tidy.

No formal police investigation was needed to force the eviction. In fact, police weren’t involved at all.

There were no warrants, no evidence and, apparently, no crime. As of today, no charges have been laid.

Just an eviction notice.

Justice officials have not specified why these people were evicted, other than to say they were “probably” possessing, producing, using, consuming, selling, transferring, exchanging or trafficking a controlled substance.

It could have been a small baggie of pot or a brick of coke. Justice officials won’t say, though clearly there are different levels of concern.

They also won’t say who was evicted — their identities are protected under privacy legislation.

Besides, this wasn’t a criminal investigation — where they would be identified if charged — so government officials are being very careful. If they identified someone, they might provoke a defamation lawsuit.

But, because these people have not been identified, they will simply mosey along to the next landlord. The problem, if indeed there was one, has simply shifted from one house to another.

If, of course, the renters can find a place — the market is pretty tight.

To help these people cope with their new circumstances (officials haven’t said how many people were living there, whether any were children or women and if they were all involved in the illicit activity), the government handed them a notice.

It is 91 words long.

It spells out what social assistance is. “This program is to be used as a last resort only, after all other possible sources have been explored,” it reads, in part.

It also gives the address of alcohol and drug services. And two phone numbers to call for information.

After the News asked for, and received, a copy of this handout, officials drafted a new, more comprehensive list. They delivered it to the trailer’s residents the next day.

This alone raises questions about whether Justice officials were ready to initiate such action. It suggests they wanted an outcome, without considering its implications.

In fact, in evicting the people the government is breaking its own law.

The Yukon’s Landlord and Tenant Act prevents a landlord from evicting a long-term renter without 14 days notice.

Why? Because it’s dangerous being homeless in the Yukon in the dead of winter. These people have five days to line up new digs.

How can the government break its own law? Because SCAN is very powerful — it trumps the landlord act.

Can the evicted appeal?

Nope. There is no informal process for them to appeal the decision. They have to muster the resources to go to court.

Can the accused access the evidence used against them?

Nope, not allowed.

The safer communities act’s secret pseudopolice have wide-ranging powers to collect health and employment records, conduct surveillance and gather all sorts of other information on people, but that data is for their eyes only.

It is not available to the accused or their lawyers after it is collected. Unless, of course, the accused take it to court and successfully argue for its release.

So there are many troubling issues surrounding this shoddy Yukon law.

And it probably violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice,” reads the national Charter.

As well, “any person charged with an offence has the right … to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.”

Though not challenged in court, it would appear the Yukon SCAN legislation violates these two principles, if not more.

It passed the legislature because the public was frustrated about the drug problem and wanted action.

The SCAN legislation, proposed by the NDP and passed by the Yukon Party, is a backdoor, a dodge around Canada’s established common law, derived from centuries of judgments by working jurists.

The Yukon legislation ignores established citizen rights and laws. And because of that, it’s grievously flawed.

It is lazy justice.

And lazy justice is not justice at all. (RM)