Civil liberties group wants to join legal challenge of Yukon safer communities legislation

·2 min read
The Yukon court house in Whitehorse. (Paul Tukker/CBC - image credit)
The Yukon court house in Whitehorse. (Paul Tukker/CBC - image credit)

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) wants to participate in a legal challenge against a piece of Yukon legislation that allows for rapid evictions in response to complaints about illegal activity.

The association, a national non-profit that focuses on issues surrounding rights and freedoms, filed a notice of application to the Yukon Supreme Court on Aug. 12.

It's seeking intervenor status in a case launched by Whitehorse woman Celia Wright against the Yukon government's director of public safety and investigations in January.

Wright, a mother of eight, filed a legal petition after she was given five days to leave her home in the Cowley Creek subdivision in December 2020 following an anonymous complaint about alleged drug activity at her address.

An intervenor is a party that's not directly involved in a case, but would either be seriously impacted by the outcome or can offer valuable insight into the issues at hand.

At the centre of Wright's petition is the Yukon's Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) Act, which allows Yukon government officials to investigate and handle complaints about illegal activity at specific addresses without needing to get the criminal justice system involved.

Specifically, the petition targets Section 3(2) of the act, which allows for complaints to be resolved via landlords terminating a lease or tenancy with only five days' notice, regardless of any existing tenancy agreements.

Wright is challenging the constitutionality of the section.

In its application for intervenor status, the CCLA proposes making arguments about Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects life, liberty and security of the person.

It argues that SCAN legislation gives the director of public safety and investigations the power to bring about evictions, which "gives rise to a deprivation of liberty … owing to its instruction into fundamental personal choices relating to the establishment of one's home," thereby invoking Section 7.

It also argues that the legislation, in being complaint-driven, "leaves marginalized groups especially susceptible to evictions," something that "must be considered" in a larger context.

While Wright can speak about her own experience with SCAN, the CCLA's application says the organization has "extensive experience litigating" Section 7 of the Charter and would be able to provide a wider perspective on possible constitutional issues with the legislation.

"Given the systemic Charter issues at stake, the perspective set out above should not be overlooked," the application says.

A hearing date for the application has not been set yet.

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