A Saint John woman says the Department of Social Development used a controversial law to evict her from her public housing apartment after she was accused of being a drug dealer.
The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods law allows the provincial government to evict suspected drug dealers and others without convicting them of a crime.
But Phyllis Blizzard said she found herself wrongly accused of selling drugs and in search of a new home.
She received an eviction notice from her New Brunswick Housing unit on Nov. 22. The letter claimed that she was allegedly involved in illegal drugs and it said she was supposed to be out of her apartment on Dec. 31.
Blizzard called N.B. Housing to find out why she was being kicked out.
The day after she called the provincial government, Blizzard said members of the Safer Communities and Neighborhoods unit arrived at her house with a warning letter.
The letter said if she didn't stop any illegal drug activity she could be evicted from her home. That letter was dated Nov. 27, five days after the eviction notice. Blizzard should have received the warning from the SCAN unit before receiving her eviction notice.
"I have my rights here. I said you guys had me evicted from my apartment — I want you to search my apartment, ‘He said we can't do it,’" Blizzard said, referring to a SCAN unit inspector.
Blizzard's case is the latest problem being raised with the SCAN law. A judge overturned two other eviction notices that were issued on the same day as Blizzard’s.
In his decision Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Peter Glennie said the SCAN investigation by employee William Hanley was shallow and inadequate.
Hanley is the same investigator that signed off on Blizzard's warning.
Deborah Nobes, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, forwarded CBC's request for an interview about Blizzard’s complaint on to the Department of Social Development.
Jean-François Pelletier, a spokesperson for that department, said he can't speak about specific cases.
Hanley, the SCAN investigator, did not return CBC’s phone calls for comment.
Public Safety Minister Robert Trevors said on Tuesday the cases referred to by Glennie were isolated incidents.
He also said the department has launched a review of the SCAN program to get a better understanding of what was happening.
‘I’m an innocent person’
In court case, Glennie ruled the provincial government relied on false information and hearsay evidence, something Trevors said is not supposed to happen.
That may have happened in Blizzard’s case as well.
The Saint John woman said she thinks a neighbour with a grudge against her called the SCAN unit and lied about her. She said she believes the neighbour told the unit that she was dealing drugs.
She said as far as she knows no one ever investigated that claim and no one questioned her.
"I'm an innocent person and I'm not allowed to defend myself," she said.
The eviction has taken a toll on Blizzard financially. She said she has been forced to use money she was saving for Christmas gifts for her grandchildren to hire a lawyer to fight the eviction.
She was given a three-month reprieve because she was in and out of the hospital during the process.
Blizzard is now living with a friend.
Even though the provincial government is reviewing the SCAN program, Blizzard said that doesn’t help her.
The Saint John woman said the experience has left her humiliated after being labelled a drug dealer without any proof.
"They're saying I sell drugs so they've got me blacklisted everywhere in the city here," she said.
"I'm homeless. I can never get into housing again. Never."