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SCAN shows dealers tough love

Since the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act office opened in late 2006, 139 complaints have been received against 108 different properties.

Since the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act office opened in late 2006, 139 complaints have been received against 108 different properties.

Of those, residents of 37 homes were warned to stop their activity.

After repeated warnings, 20 tenants gave up their illegal activity — usually drug dealing — voluntarily.

Another 17 people were formally evicted from their homes.

“We’re really pleased with the response we’ve had to the legislation,” said Justice Minister Marian Horne.

“People are coming up to me personally and telling me that they feel safer in their communities and neighbourhoods.”

SCAN gives government investigators wide-ranging powers to shut down properties suspected of illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, bootlegging and prostitution.

Horne didn’t have any statistics on whether complaints of such illegal activity have been decreasing as a result of SCAN.

“I think it would take more than a year to really see positive results and the numbers cutting down,” said Horne.

“I know we’ve had complaints saying that if people move they’ll do the same thing again, and that’s where the success will come in.

“These people may move to another location and start the same activity and they may have to move again.

“They’re going to eventually give up, and that’s when we’ll start to see the positive results.

“Sometimes just knowing that someone is watching is enough to get a dealer to stop.”

The legislation’s success can be seen throughout downtown Whitehorse, said Downtown Residents Association director Roxanne Livingstone.

“I’ve walked by drug beehives where there are customers coming every six minutes,” she said.

“Later, I see the green SCAN sticker — the eviction notice.

“Then, a couple of days later, I see a dumpster move up and clean out the whole place.”

Two of these former drug houses are being demolished, said Livingstone.

“In one, a triplex is going up; in another, condos. This is really cleaning up the downtown.”

Legal and civil rights experts interviewed previously by the News have criticized sections of the legislation.

The law requires very little proof to oust tenants and allows landlords to make evictions with only five days’ notice.

The act may also violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees “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.”

The act usually affects those with limited financial resources and education, said Winnipeg defence lawyer Josh Weinstein.

This means that the legality of the act is less likely to be tested in territorial court.

“I believe it’s been tested in other jurisdictions and they have had no complaints of human rights being violated,” said Horne.

“But of course we have to wait and see on that because it is a fairly new act.”

Justice officials take care to make sure that human rights are not violated, Horne added.

Both Manitoba and Saskatchewan have similar laws.

The government of the Northwest Territories is looking into its own safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation.

In August, the NWT law was sent back to the drawing board because of complaints by lawyers, public advocates and human rights organizations.

Approximately 90 per cent of complaints to the Yukon’s SCAN office have been made in Whitehorse.

“I would expect that the rural communities will be buying in more now that they see the success here in Whitehorse,” said Horne.

“That also depends on First Nations participating in SCAN.”

The government has special agreements with two First Nations regarding SCAN — Carcross/Tagish and Champagne Aishihik.

“I know from personal experience that intervention does help and it sometimes takes more than one intervention,” said Livingstone.

“We love these people and we care enough to intervene,” she said.

And if they don’t give up dealing, they will be evicted from their home.