Advocates for panhandlers in Ottawa are calling a Supreme Court of Canada decision not to review a law designed to curb squeegee kids and beggars disappointing, but say they don't believe this puts an end to the controversy.
The Supreme Court yesterday denied leave to appeal the case of David Banks, et al. vs. Her Majesty the Queen, in which 11 homeless men were convicted under Chapter 8 of the Ontario Safe Streets Act for attempting to squeegee windshields for money.
John Hollingsworth, a lawyer with Ottawa’s Ticket Defence Program, said the case only upheld the constitutionality of the province to regulate traffic safety on roadways.
“The real question about the constitutionality of panhandling isn’t spoken to in any of these lower court decisions,” said Hollingsworth.
“In fact the constitutionality of panhandling is still that panhandling is legal.”
Lawyers for the men based their appeal on the belief that the act violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, judges from lower courts upheld the decision stating it was in the interest of public safety.
Though the Act does not explicitly prohibit panhandling, it places a series of restrictions on how it may be done. Hollingsworth admitted that the letter of the law appears reasonable.
“Our argument in the ticket defence program is that the way that the law is applied is over broad,” he said.