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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN SN: Anti-Drug-Den law Could Face Hurdle In Court
Title:CN SN: Anti-Drug-Den law Could Face Hurdle In Court
Published On:2011-12-24
Source:StarPhoenix, The (CN SN)
Fetched On:2011-12-27 06:02:32

They were designed to empower citizens to take action against
neighbourhood drug dens and bawdy houses.

But laws passed in several provinces that allow officials to shutter
homes and businesses suspected of regularly being used for illegal
activity could come under fresh scrutiny.

A Nova Scotia couple who were ordered out of their home after a judge
found they were likely selling and using drugs on the property have
appealed their eviction to that province's highest court, arguing the
standard used to evict them was too low.

It's the first time such a case has been considered at the appeal
court level in Canada, and a decision could come at any time, said
their lawyer Tony Mozvik.

"Before you remove somebody, it seems to me you'd better really make
sure they're doing something in violation of the act," Mozvik said.
"Rumour and innuendo is not enough. In this case that's all they really had."

Under the so-called Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods laws "which
exist in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New
Brunswick" residents can file anonymous complaints with their
province about problem properties.

If, after conducting surveillance on the property, provincial
investigators "typically retired police officers" believe the
complaints are valid, they can take a number of measures, including
sending warning letters to the owners or working with landlords to
evict tenants.

In more serious or difficult cases, investigators can turn to a judge
to order the property shut down for up to 90 days.

No criminal conviction is necessary.

Supporters of the legislation say such civil remedies are often more
effective in dealing with problem properties than launching criminal

If police arrest a drug dealer, the drug dealing can persist at the
property. Shutting down the property ensures the criminal activity stops.

"We're able to deal with the property itself, so the activity can't
continue in that location," said Candace Cook, a spokesperson for
the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team, which has completed more
than 1,000 investigations since 2008, with most being resolved
informally and 15 requiring a judge's intervention.

Furthermore, civil matters are decided on a balance of probabilities,
which is lower than the reasonable-doubt threshold required in
criminal cases, meaning investigations don't need to take as long.
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