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Squeegee Kids Get No Quarter


The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld the law banning squeegee-kids from panhandling on the streets of the province.

The court argued that while the law itself violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (a violation of Freedom of Expression), the law continues to have a positive effect on the promotion of safer streets.

The law itself has been in effect in Ontario since 2000, enacted by then Premier Mike Harris, and heavily supported by Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman.

Since then, similar laws have been passed in many provinces in Canada.

But what of the Charter? From the article in the Toronto Star, the ruling construed the Charter to "extended to those groups on the basis of personal characteristics, such as race, sex, ethnic origin, or age". Squeegee kids are not identified by their personal characteristics, but the activity they are engaged in.

Is this a proper interpretation of our rights and freedoms, or a cop out by a panel of judges unwilling to change a law that may anger business owners and city officials?

The Charter itself is meant to defend citizens from a tyranny of the majority. The spirit of the Charter is to act as the codified defense of the individual, regardless of "personal characteristics". I for one think the Charter helps to force people to look beyond personal characteristics, and treat everyone fairly.

The ruling continues to raise questions. Is a law that targets the poor discrimination? Is squeegee-ing a form of expression? Are our streets any safer without squeegee kids?


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