The BCCLA has filed an access to information request with the BC government seeking transparency on the projected costs of the proposed Community Safety Act (“the Act”). The law was passed in 2013 but has never been brought into effect. A bill aiming to amend the Act is currently before the BC Legislature and Minister Farnworth, who is sponsoring Bill 13, has committed to implementing the Act by the end of 2019.
The Act will enable neighbours to lodge anonymous complaints about certain activities that they suspect are occurring in their community and causing harm to others. The filing of a complaint under the Act can trigger investigations by provincial officials and ultimately lead to the issuance of a community safety order by a court. The court order would prohibit people from carrying out activities on the property and may also order people to vacate the property (even if they own it).
“In our conversations with BC government officials about the Community Safety Act, we have been assured repeatedly that of the 600 annual complaints lodged under similar laws in other provinces, only 2% result in a court order,” said Meghan McDermott, Acting Policy Director at the BCCLA. “This raises the obvious question: why is the government setting up a whole new office to implement this law when its key mechanism – a community safety order issued by a court – will rarely be used?”
The BCCLA does not think that the Act should be brought into force for a number of reasons, including the fact that it will circumvent the Residential Tenancy Act and the Criminal Code. These existing legal tools include much better procedural safeguards than the Act does for the people whose rights may be affected due to the carrying out of illegal activities.
In May, other community groups joined to BCCLA to tell Minister Farnworth, that that the Act will undermine the very purpose it aims to address. We wrote in an open letter that community safety will in fact be weakened by the Act in that it will put many people in BC at risk of losing their housing and being separated from their families and other supportive communities. This will particularly impact already vulnerable and over-policed communities.
“The implementation of a new statute, requiring a novel office to be set up, investigators to be trained, and requiring courts to hear complaints lodged by neighbours will likely be very costly,” said Meghan McDermott, Acting Policy Director. “We are looking for transparency about the nature of these additional expenses for the public, especially in light of our skepticism around the purported benefits of this law.”
Meghan McDermott, Acting Policy Director at [email protected] (778) 783-3011