An appeal court has overturned the forced eviction of a woman accused, but not convicted of selling drugs.
The unsubstantiated allegation was made through the Yukon’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, passed in 2006.
This was the first appeal of an eviction under the legislation.
The woman’s only crime was hanging out with the wrong crowd, said Justice E.D. Johnson in 16-page written decision handed down Thursday.
In February, Karen Nicloux, a Whitehorse resident with no criminal record, was accused of selling drugs by an anonymous tipster.
Doreen and Chris Ouellet, two “known drugs users” were spotted walking into Nicloux’s home on Thompson Road, the snitch told Whitehorse Housing Authority. Chris Oullett’s criminal record was never provided to the judge, wrote Johnson.
Further accusations were made, prompting a three-day stakeout of Nicloux’s duplex by officials under rules laid out in the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act.
The ex-cops snooping outside the home recognized the Ouellets and warned Nicloux to make new friends.
Nicloux didn’t listen.
The Ouellet visits continued. And the informant kept feeding the housing authority information about their comings and goings.
A month later, police charged Nicloux with drug trafficking after she left another person’s house.
At this point, the anonymous allegations, which had never been heard in a court of law, had sullied Nicloux’s reputation.
And they were enough for the housing authority to slap an eviction notice on Nicloux’s house, using the SCAN law.
But the courts slapped down that decision.
“If the director had applied for the order, I would have refused to grant it,” wrote Johnson.
There just wasn’t enough evidence and Nicloux had no criminal record, he wrote.
All of the tips came from one confidential informant that could not be cross-examined.
That person would never have to prove how they knew Nicloux was selling drugs.
“The evidence carries little weight,” wrote Johnson.
The housing authority alleged Chris Ouellet was a drug dealer, but no criminal record was provided.
The Ouellets had been chased out of two different homes in seven months under the SCAN act.
They never fought those evictions.
“I asked Doreen what they would do if I didn’t fight (the SCAN eviction),” said Nicloux in a phone interview from jail. “She said they were going to die.”
Nicloux is innocent until proven guilty, wrote Johnson, dismissing allegations she was trafficking drugs.
The housing authority director believed this hearsay was sufficient to declare drug dealing was taking place, but Johnson didn’t draw the same conclusion, he wrote.
Cases from similar SCAN laws in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan were reviewed by Johnson.
In those provinces, eviction notices that survived appeal had been first vetted by a judge. In those cases, the evidence was stronger and witnesses had been cross-examined.
In eviction cases that were approved by a judge, the evidence was weightier and witnesses were cross-examined.
Though Nicloux’s eviction has been overturned, the housing authority is still on her case.
Nicloux is in jail awaiting trial.
And the housing authority is not letting her lease be transferred to her 19-year-old daughter.
“I’m losing my home because of SCAN,” she said.
The housing authority does not comment on individual cases, said acting president JoAnne Harach.
But it does have a policy of relocating tenants to a suitable-sized home, said Harach.
Nicloux’s home on Thompson Road belongs to the housing authority.
Despite the legal troubles, Nicloux was emotional after reading Johnson’s decision.
“I cried when I read it,” she said.
She’s grateful for the work Legal Aid lawyer Colleen Harrington did for her, she said.
The charter guarantees Canadians the right to freedom of association, and those rights were almost
trampled in this case, said Nicloux.
“I’ll do anything for Doreen,” she said. “(The Ouellets) don’t have any other friends.”
Contact James Munson at firstname.lastname@example.org.