letter to the editor254

Neighbourhood action trumps Constitution I read with interest Friday’s Yukon News and its avalanche of articles and editorials (cartoon…

Neighbourhood action trumps Constitution

I read with interest Friday’s Yukon News and its avalanche of articles and editorials (cartoon included) of the eviction notice at a so-called drug house at Kopper King.

Apparently, the rights of the individuals are being trampled and they aren’t being given the due process entitled under the Constitution.

Have I got it about right?

We live in a democratic society where these are treasured rights. I agree with that principle.

I am, however, concerned by the comments I have heard from others I have talked to about this issue.

These people are glad that something is finally being done to remove these activities from their neighbourhoods.

They feel that the conduct of apparent illicit activities in their neighbourhoods, like prostitution and drug dealing, are not conducive to family life.

They feel resentful that the people who are conducting these activities are not only protected by the Constitution, but their rights are elevated above those of all others.

For fear of being slapped with a court challenge that would undermine their case, the police are compelled to act slowly in order to gather the evidence necessary to meet the requirements for burden of proof.

Meanwhile, the rest of the people in the neighbourhood watch, powerless and unable to do anything themselves, wondering when authorities are going to do something.

Ironically, if neighbours rose up and took action, they would soon be the ones facing the courts for trying to protect their right to a safe neighbourhood.

Over the past few years, the issue of drug houses in downtown Whitehorse has come up as a hot community issue.

Nobody wants them in their neighbourhood.

This is not a new issue, except now there is a piece of legislation that enables authorities to do something without having to wait months or years to run it through the court system.

I hear people expressing satisfaction that something decisive has taken place.

And if they want to challenge it in the courts, I’m sure that there would be an opportunity for evidence to be presented to support or rescind the action.

Picture your own neighbourhood.

One day a new neighbour moves in.

You soon notice that they have a large number of drop-in visitors. About 20 or 30 people an hour may come to their door, and may only stay for a few minutes, then they leave.

Some of these people don’t seem very alert and their driving is erratic.

Next you notice that the house isn’t being well maintained — tall grass, broken windows – you get the idea.

One day a person under the influence of one or another drug gets the address wrong and stumbles into your yard, or comes to your door. They might even walk into your home.

One person I spoke with had this happen.

You start finding hypodermic syringes on your lawn… the list is endless.

Pretty soon you find that you and your neighbours are experiencing break-ins and burglaries.

Nobody feels safe leaving things out in the yard anymore for fear that they will disappear, and they have to keep the doors locked all the time.

You start talking to your children about street safety, and you build a higher fence and make them play in the back yard.

Pretty soon word gets out and everybody in town knows what’s going on, so your real estate value goes down.

You ask yourself, do you want to be the one who will step forward to do something, or is it just easier to sell and move to another part of town?

When you talk to authorities about taking action, you discover that they are very slow to do so because they fear legal action being taken for violation of constitutional rights.

You feel frustrated and start believing that the people causing the problem actually have more rights than you do, and you’re not breaking the law.

So one day, the occupants of the alleged drug house receive an eviction notice and are forced to move out of the neighbourhood.

How would you feel?

If this happens in enough neighbourhoods, then the wandering drug dealers may have to reconsider how they do business.

I believe that the articles you published, as well as the editorial and the cartoon misdirect the issue.

The thought of being evicted from your home is a terrible thought for each and every one of us, I agree, but the eviction in question targets ‘alleged’ drug dealers in a Whitehorse neighbourhood.

If these ‘alleged’ dealers feel that their rights have been violated, let them challenge it in court.

Meanwhile, there seem to be a lot of people who are relieved that something has actually been done.

Do we live in a just society when the rights of many must defer to the rights of a few?

You may find that while you defend the constitutional rights of the evictees, you may win points for upholding a principle, but you will lose the hearts of a lot of people who think it’s great that something is finally being done to get rid of a blight.

No one in his right mind will tell you that a crack house down the street enhances the quality of life in the community.

For while the debate rages, paralysis sets in and the drug trade continues to do a thriving business … thank you very much.

Michael Gates