Via Blogawa, I saw a post by A. on Please Pick-Up Your Socks that there would be a meeting about Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods ("SCAN") legislation, which is being proposed in Ontario by our local MPP, Yasir Naqvi. The meeting was held tonight (Thursday, February 5, 2009) at the Ottawa Public Library main branch.
The event was organized by a group called People Against SCAN (PeopleAgainstSCAN.com), and consisted of a panel of five speakers, including Naqvi, Cheri DiNovo (NDP MPP for Parkdale-High Park; Naqvi and DiNovo pictured below), Yutaka Dirks (Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator, Advocacy Centre for Tenants - Ontario), Anne Levesque (Lawyer, Clinique juridique francophone de l'est d'Ottawa), and Tara Lyons (Executive Director, Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy).
Kudos are in order for Mr. Naqvi coming out to an event organized by a group whose sole purpose is to oppose legislation he is sponsoring, and also for being willing to meet with many of the individuals and groups represented at the meeting who oppose his bill. But just showing up won't win my support.
Before the event, I had a chance to read over some information about the Orwellian-titled SCAN bill on the People Against SCAN's website, particularly This memo detailing areas of concern of the bill. Looking through that document was frightening. The mere fact that a tenant can be evicted without having a right to properly defend themselves (as is the case with SCAN legislation in other jurisdictions) is enough for me to oppose it outright. I don't care what your bill is designed to do, if it skirts due process, I oppose it--didn't we learn that already with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Gonzales?
There were definitely a decent representation of people at the meeting in favour of the legislation. Most cited chronic crack houses as the problem they want this legislation to solve--houses where illegal activity takes place (even though the reach of the bill goes beyond criminal activity)--but I am not convinced, as they are, that this legislation will actually solve their problems. So you shut down a house filled with crack addicts. They're not all of a sudden going to get un-addicted because they were evicted.
Moreover, even if it were to solve the problems cited by its proponents in the audience, SCAN would impact others in the community in ways that don't seem to concern the proponents.
You can download a PDF of the bill here and see for yourself what it says.
One section that was raised as a concern was section 20. Section 20 starts out by saying that the municipally-appointed Director of Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods must make a "reasonable effort" to make sure that evicted residents have alternate accommodation. Now, I don't like ambiguous words like "reasonable" to begin with, but the section continues to say that it "does not apply to a resident who the Director reasonably believes caused or contributed to any of the activities in respect of which the order that requires the residents to leave was made."
So once the eviction takes place, the Director can let them go out in the cold so long as the Director "reasonably believes" that the people caused or contributed to activities which triggered the SCAN legislation--activities which don't have to be illegal, simply which "adversely affect" the neighbourhood--such as sniffing glue or gasoline in one's home (read the law--it actually mentions glue!).
The bill has passed second reading, but is in committee and will likely not survive there, which is a good thing in a way.
But in another way, it's a pity, because the community members who wanted SCAN wanted it because there were problems in their community and they're banking on it getting passed. But they asked for legislation that does far more than is reasonable, and as such it will get shot down and these community members will be back at square one with no resolution to their legitimate problems.
On my way home from the meeting, I came across a car whose alarm was going off. This was pretty late at night, and the streets were empty. As someone who is concerned about his neighbourhood, I felt compelled to do something about it. My cell phone's battery had run out (grr... stupid thing won't even last one full day and it's less than a year old...), so my initial reaction to phone Bylaw to make a noise complaint was not an option. But a dead cellphone battery wasn't going to stop me.
I started by leaving a note on the windshield wiper, which read "If you're not going to respond to your car alarm going off, then TURN IT THE FUCK OFF!!! (P.S. Your radio is still on)"
After leaving this note under the windshield wiper, I took down the plate number, time and location on my notepad so I could report it when I got home if I felt like it. But as I was writing it, a man walked up to the car. I established that he was the owner, and told him that the car alarm was going off, even if I just walk in front of the car.
And the guy was genuinely concerned. He was concerned about his car alarm being oversensitive, he was concerned about the disruption this caused, and he was concerned that there was probably something wrong with his car's electronics system causing this. He said he would take it in the next day and get a loaner while it is fixed, and I think he even said something about disconnecting the battery so it wouldn't bother any more people tonight.
I snatched my note off his windshield and crumpled it into my pocket, and instead wished him a good night, as he went into his car to troubleshoot the problem.
I felt good about that experience, because I dealt with the problem myself without relying on a government to intervene because of my anonymous (to the driver) complaint. In fact, I am probably more anonymous for having confronted him in person than by reporting it to Bylaw.
At the meeting about SCAN, a number of times opponents said to proponents that they should try to talk to the problem tenants. Frankly, I cringed when they said this, and some people said they already tried dealing directly with the people to no avail. If I had a biker gang next door dealing drugs and guns, I sure as hell won't knock on the door and--hell, I'd avoid drawing attention to myself as much as possible!
But the incident with the car alarm really brought it home that there are people out there who are willing to respond to your concerns in a civil manner. We live in a society where we want to respond to problems with anger and punishment, but sometimes all you have to do is ask politely.