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article imageWill City Council impose anti-panhandling laws in Toronto?

By Andrew Moran     Jun 2, 2011 in Politics
Toronto - With summer-like weather in Toronto, it's a perfect time to a take stroll throughout the city. That is until you get repeatedly asked for change. Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday suggested that city council can do something to control the growing problem.
It was reported in 2007 that Toronto police officers laid more than 1,400 charges against aggressive panhandlers under the province of Ontario’s 1999 Safe Streets Act.
The law does not allow beggars asking for money in an aggressive way nor does it allow panhandlers to ask for money near public transit stops, ATMs and payphones. There is a $70 fine imposed if the law is broken.
In 2008, there was a strong campaign at city hall to tackle the growing issue of panhandling. City council executive committee voted in favour of spending $7 million over two years to find housing for the homeless.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday
Some of the city councillors back then who serve today at city hall questioned the initiative, including Mayor Rob Ford allies Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday and City Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.
At the time, Holyday questioned how the city could spend such a large sum of money when they passed the vehicle and land transfer taxes. He said the program would cost $35,000 per person that would be helped.
Meanwhile, Minnan-Wong doubted the program would actually help. “If you talk to any Toronto resident, they'll tell you panhandling is on the increase,” said the Ward 34 Don Valley West City Councillor. “I think most people feel it's getting worse. They walk down on the streets of Toronto, they feel unsafe.”
Fast forward to the present day and the talk of anti-panhandling laws are back on the table.
Council Chamber
Council Chamber
680 News is reporting that the Deputy Mayor is making the case that city council needs to do something about panhandling in the city. One idea Holyday is proposing is to make it illegal to hinder the sidewalk. The potential bylaw could be forced through fines and/or jail time.
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here there are other jurisdictions that have strong panhandling laws in effect and that’s what we need here,” said Holyday, reports the Toronto Sun. “It’s time to move in that direction.”
Bylaws, like the one offered, already exist in cities across the country, including Winnipeg and Vancouver. Regina had bylaws, but they were later repealed.
Although officers do enforce the laws already in place, Holyday called them too lenient and noted that Toronto imports panhandlers from other cities because of the relaxed policies.
More about Toronto city council, antipanhandling laws, Panhandling, doug holyday, Rob Ford
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