Squeegee-kid ban upheld

January 17, 2007 Tracey Tyler

Squeegee-kid ban upheld

Judges say crackdown on road panhandling violates Charter but upholds law because it reduces dangers on the street

Banning squeegee people from begging on public roadways violates their freedom of expression. But regulating pedestrians and traffic and reducing dangers on the streets is important enough to override that constitutional right, the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled.
In a unanimous decision yesterday, the court dismissed appeals from 11 homeless men who were convicted of provincial offences in 2001 for washing windshields or asking Toronto drivers for money.

They argued that provisions in the Safe Streets Act and Highway Traffic Act that ban solicitation on roadways infringe their rights to freedom of expression and security of the person under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

They also argued the legislation violates the Charter's equality provisions, aimed at preventing violation of human dignity.

Writing for the three-judge panel, Justice Russell Juriansz said the appellants' dignity was not infringed by legislative provisions that stop them from stepping onto a street or approaching a vehicle to solicit.

He also said that lawyers for the 11 men had not made their case that the Charter specifically prohibits discrimination against "the poor who beg."

"While the appellants' conditions of economic disadvantage may be deserving of sympathy, they have not established they are entitled to a response that is constitutional in nature," Juriansz said, writing for the panel that included Justices Karen Weiler and Robert Armstrong.

"I'm very disappointed in the decision and I'm going to be investigating the possibility of seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada," Peter Rosenthal, a lawyer for the appellants, said in an interview yesterday.

"Perhaps I didn't explain it properly to the Court of Appeal, but the people we're talking about are people so poor they have to beg ... who in our view are deserving of protection and should be considered among the groups of people against whom one can't discriminate," he said.

But Charter protection is extended to those groups on the basis of personal characteristics, such as race, sex, ethnic origin, or age, Juriansz said. The poor who beg are not defined by personal characteristics, per se, but the activity in which they are engaged. While they "undoubtedly suffer from disadvantage," they're not easily defined, he added.

"While it is common to speak of the `poor' collectively, the group is, in actuality, the statistical aggregation of all individuals who are economically disadvantaged ... for any reason."

While the judgment found that the provisions infringed on the appellants' freedom of expression, it found those restrictions were justified.

"The limits achieve the objective of promoting public safety, efficient circulation, and public enjoyment of public thoroughfares. The impairment of the appellant's rights is minimal."

The court said the appellants had alternative means of expression, such as conveying their message from the sidewalk. "While the legislation does effectively ban squeegeeing on roadways, it does not prohibit the appelant from expressing their message that they are in need of help.

"They cannot squeegee car windows, but to the extent that they may wish to provide a service in exchange for donation, there are other alternatives available."
The first time I saw this crap was in Toronto. The guy was no teenager...My guess is he was in his mid-twenties. Without asking he splashed water on my windshield and began to squeegee it off. I was driving a new car and it had just been washed and polished. I opened the driver's side window and told him I didn't want the windows washed. He gave me the finger and bashed the car with his squeegee. I couldn't chase him because I was in traffic.

"Freedom of Expression"? Where is my freedom not to be harrassed by these pan-handlers who do this in place of getting a real job. I would like to see them banned accross the country.
They're all over london too, and no they never ask. they're rude and presume too much, and also dangerous. i'm glad they're banned
I have had similar experiences in downtown Toronto. They don't ask if you want your windows cleaned, they just do it and then expect prompt payment or suffer the consequences.
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