Saskatchewan

Regina repeals anti-panhandling bylaw

City councillors in Regina have voted unanimously to get rid of the city's so-called anti-panhandling law.

City councillors in Regina have voted unanimously to get rid of the city's so-called anti-panhandling law.

Officially called the Tag Day bylaw, it required people raising money on public property to obtain a permit. It was originally put in place to keep track of which registered charities were out collecting money.

However, over the years police have used the law to give tickets to panhandlers on the streets, a city hall report says.

In 2008 and 2009, 31 charges were laid for breaching the bylaw and although few cases resulted in convictions, some people were fined $50 or $75.

Freedom of expression

Several other cities in Canada have been taken to court over similar bylaws.

Decisions in those cases say panhandling is a type of expression, and banning it violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

With the Tag Day Bylaw repealed, the rules dealing with charities are being moved to a different bylaw.

Mayor Pat Fiacco said council did the right thing rejecting the Tag Day bylaw, but he also said concerns over aggressive panhandlers are still valid.

"We don't want to infringe on human rights but we also don't want customers in the downtown being harassed," he said.

On the other hand, panhandling isn't a big problem in the city, he noted.

A city administration report said if councillors want to regulate panhandling, they could look at some options.

It notes that Calgary, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Prince Albert have all amended or replaced anti-panhandling laws with bylaws recognizing that it's a permitted activity — but at the same time containing provisions designed to control aggressive panhandling.