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)

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson the dog sits next to the Chariot Patrick Jackson has loaded and rigged up to walk the Dempster Highway from where it begins, off the North Klondike Highway, to the Arctic Circle. (Submitted)
Walking the Dempster

Patrick Jackson gets set for 405-kilometre journey

Liberal leader Sandy Silver speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Dawson City following early poll results on April 12. (Robin Sharp/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Minority government results will wait on tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin

The Yukon Party and the Liberal Party currently have secured the same amount of seats

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read