The Yukon government is committed to conducting a review of the SCAN Act, but a close look at the legislation that allows for summary evictions is at least a year away.
Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee promised the review of the act in one of the last legislative sitting days of 2021.
The SCAN Act allows for short-notice evictions based on complaints of illegal activity at rented homes. The SCAN unit investigates complaints related to illegal drug or alcohol activities, child sexual exploitation, organized crime and firearms and in some cases it can evict tenants without regard for existing rental agreements.
In the legislature, McPhee noted that in the approximately 16 years since the SCAN Act was put in place it has not seen a comprehensive review. She said she had committed to a review of the Act in writing. McPhee also spoke of the Act’s benefits in the face of criminal activity in the territory.
“We cannot pretend that, in the Yukon, we are not being affected by the increased drug trafficking into this territory from places like Vancouver and Toronto — that it is done in an organized way, in a criminal organization, and that they are sending individuals here to infiltrate our communities, to start a drug trade, and to continue that drug trade.”
According to a Department of Justice representative, the review is not commencing until 2023 because the department requires time to prepare. The preparations are set to include defining a scope and method of the review.
The SCAN Act is also on the verge of being scrutinized by the courts as well as the legislature. A legal challenge to evictions under the act filed by Celia Wright who was served with an eviction notice under the act. In October, the Yukon Supreme Court denied an application from the Yukon government lawyers seeking to dismiss Wright’s challenge.
Wright, her partner and eight children were served an eviction notice for a rental property near the Carcross Cutoff with five days notice in January 2021. Although the eviction was later delayed and then eventually rescinded Wright still felt her civil liberties had been violated and proceeded with the court challenge.
When McPhee announced the commitment to review the SCAN Act, Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers expressed concern with the lack of public consultation on SCAN Act reviews and amendments.
“While we agree that the original SCAN legislation has been useful, it also does set a lower standard than the criminal standard in going after activity,” Cathers said.
He was particularly concerned about the amendment including firearms complaints under SCAN’s scope and how it might be used in the enforcement of the firearm prohibitions brought in by the federal government in the spring of 2020.
NDP leader Kate White said her preference would have been that the government start reviewing the SCAN Act this year but noted that along with the review set for next year they have committed to a clause requiring the Act be reviewed every five years going forward.
Although White acknowledged the purpose of the Act, she said that it has impacted vulnerable and marginalized people at a disproportionate rate.
“There was no community involvement, there was no consultation. You know, there’s language that’s archaic, including the word prostitution, which we know is not what we refer to as sex work now,” White said.
She said that the SCAN Act, as it stands, now sets out to solve very complex problems while leaving no place for nuances.
“What we’ve seen is that it disproportionately puts the burden of suspicion on racialized people.”
White said the SCAN Act was specifically created to address issues with one particular drug-involved house in Whitehorse. Since then, she said it has sprawled creating unintended consequences.
Specific goals for the review of the legislation highlighted by White, included updates to the act’s language, more engagement with community organizations and evictions of people whose reputations were tarnished by a SCAN investigation, but who were not ultimately evicted under the act.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org