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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Anti-squeegee legislation

Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2007 at 8:20 AM

A bit of Halifax-centric provincial legislation is up for its third reading today in the legislature—an amendment to the Motor Vehicles Act. And Darcy Harvey, for one, isn't happy about it.

If passed, Bill 7 will make it illegal—or, even more illegal—for anyone to approach a vehicle to offer or sell goods and services. Although the bill doesn't technically reference the term "squeegee kids," (it just doesn't translate well into legal-ese), it has "squeegee" wiped all over it.

Last week, citing concerns about public safety, the provincial Liberals shifted their stance on the bill and pledged their support—a huge step towards turning the amendment into law. In its current form, the bill fines squeegee kids $50 for a first offence, and up to $250 dollars for further violations. On Wednesday, a small group of concerned citizens held a quickly organized press conference near the Halifax Common to protest the bill.

"Do we think it will change anything? Not really," explains Harvey, capacity development worker for Community Action of Homelessness. "But it's a chance to express our point of view."

Harvey says the legislation targets a very specific group, while making exceptions for others.

"If this really is a safety issue, they should say it's not safe for anyone...yet at the same time, the legislation makes it available to have permission for organized groups to do this, on occasion," she explains. There has been talk of allowing some groups, like Dalhousie's Shinerama and Feed Nova Scotia, to continue campaigns that solicit on the street, and in traffic, for limited periods of time.

Harvey also says the bill doesn't do anything to address the root issues of poverty, and legitimizes what seems to be a growing anti-squeegee sentiment from Halifax drivers.

"We hear from youth, they're getting a lot of negative comments lately—even threats," she says.

"For many, this is really their only option," she continues. "Last week, we had a youth speak about this bill saying, "I refuse to steal from people; I won't sell drugs'—and then, jokingly—"I'm too ugly to be a prostitute. If this legislation goes through, they might as well send me to jail.' With support and assistance all geared towards employability, how is having a criminal record going to affect these youth? It's counter-productive."

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