Monday, 22 February 2010

NWT SCAN Legislation - Statement by John Howard Society's Lydia Bardak

RT @Northern_Clips: #NWT MLA Hawkins & SCAN legislation (Safer Communities & Neighbourhoods) Statement by John Howard Society's Lydia Bardak

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: john howard society <>
Date: 22 February 2010 22:53
Subject: SCAN Legislation

Hi there -
I see that Robert Hawkins is looking to resuscitate Brendan Bell's SCAN legislation (Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods).  I have sent the following comments to all MLAs:
I urge caution before considering the implementation of civil remedies for criminal matters.
We have a criminal code and criminal justice system in place to deal with many of the offences covered under SCAN legislation.  The criminal justice system uses a high standard of proof, "beyond a reasonable doubt," and provides other checks and balances that safeguard citizens against false prosecution and harassment.  Under civil law, the burden of proof is significantly less, and so are the safeguards, checks, and balances that protect individuals' rights and freedoms.  At the same time, SCAN legislation allows for what we consider a serious punishment: eviction from a person's home and shelter.
This legislation will have serious and negative effects on Aboriginal people, single moms, and those living in poverty.  Our Legal Aid system does not provide coverage for civil matters therefore anyone living in poverty will likely not afford defense counsel.
It is unclear how eviction provisions, in particular, would apply to residential properties occupied by their owners. This leads to a concern about how SCAN legislation could disproportionately affect low income Northerners, since there is a strong association between renting and low income:  renters tend to spend a larger proportion of their incomes for their dwellings, and people with low incomes tend to be renters.
While SCAN legislation will likely result in re-election, it will do nothing to reduce victimization.  There is no evidence that SCAN reduces crime.  In fact, in Manitoba, the jurisdiction with the longest experience, they can not demonstrate a reduction in crime.  The vast majority of complaints have been found, upon investigation, to be unfounded...wasting tax payers' money.
There is concern however, that under SCAN legislation, criminal activity does not stop, but simply moves.  If we start evicting people in our communities, won't they simply gravitate to Yellowknife?
SCAN is no way to show's adoption demonstrates being led by the uninformed.
I urge all MLAs to find out for themselves if SCAN has achieved the desired results anywhere in Canada...the evidence simply is not there.

I have attached something that I wrote the last time this surfaced.

"No one is disposable."

SCAN Legislation…What's the hurry? 

Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Yukon Territory all have SCAN Legislation.  Has there been evidence of a reduction in crime in those jurisdictions?  It is simply too early to determine if crime has decreased because of SCAN Legislation. 

Statistics Canada tells us that crime has been going down all across Canada for the past 15 years, before SCAN and including in the provinces and territory with SCAN Legislation.  Why not wait and see if SCAN actually produces the results they are expecting?  If it does, we can re-visit this in the future. 

Community members are being told that SCAN can eliminate bootlegging, gambling, prostitution and drug dealing.  Drug dealers and bootleggers are in business because there is a market for what they sell.  If there was no demand for drugs or alcohol, they would not stick around.  A major cause of crime is the widening gap between the rich and those living in poverty.  How does SCAN address that?  

Restrictions do not work.  Prohibition does not work.  The reasons that people turn to illegal substances or substance abuse are very strong and compelling.  Not addressing those reasons is irresponsible. 

Once you shut down a home or move someone out, where will they go?  Take for example, a young man who has been bootlegging.  Move him out of his home and he moves in with his parents because you would have to look pretty far to find a mother who can turn her back on her children.  His behaviour continues, only now he is disrupting his elderly parents' lives.  Move him out of there and he moves in with his sister, bringing chaos to his nieces and nephews.  Move him out of there and he comes to the streets of Yellowknife, ends up in jail, eventually gets out and continues his harmful behaviour because we can figure out how to punish him, but we can't figure out how to help him. 

Enforcement alone never solves crime…it makes criminals out of the traumatized, the hurting and the sick.  It ties up our courts and correctional facilities, but it doesn't "fix" anything.  Prevention and education programs together with treatment and healing MUST accompany enforcement in order to be effective.  In other words, eliminate all the drug dealers, bootleggers, and prostitutes that you want…buyers are still out there.  Deal with the underlying issues if you want to see results. 

Other jurisdictions have not yet seen charter challenges or appeals because Legal Aid does not pay for lawyers on civil matters.  SCAN will take people into civil court – not covered by legal aid and thereby leaving people vulnerable.  The big drug dealers will be able to buy lawyers, but the small time, small town dealers won't have the wherewithal.  

Why not build on progress made using community-based solutions?  Why not support the Community Justice Committees and Community Wellness Workers to develop programs for youth, those with addictions, those with mental health issues, those who are unemployed, etc.  Why not support the non-government service providers who are so sadly under-funded? 

Think about it…we can do better than SCAN! 

Lydia Bardak

John Howard Society of the Northwest Territories


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