Canada

Top court won't hear Ontario squeegee law appeal

Canada's top court won't hear an appeal from 11 homeless men arguing an Ontario law outlawing squeegee kids and panhandling is unconstitutional.

Canada's top court won't hear an appeal from 11 homeless men arguing an Ontario law that prohibits panhandling and squeegee kids is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court decision means the law will stand.

In a decision released Thursday, the court denied leave to appeal to the men, who were convicted under the Safe Streets Act. As is custom, the court did not give a reason for its decision.

The law prohibits repeatedly asking people for money in an aggressive manner, washing motorists' windshields for money and allows police to issue $70 fines. It also forbids panhandling near ATMs, pay phones and public transit stops.

Lawyers for the men had argued that it violated their rights to freedom of expression, fundamental justice and equal treatment before the law.

The Safe Streets Act was back in the spotlight earlier this month when a St. Catharines, Ont., man visiting Toronto was stabbed to death after being approached for money. Four people have been charged in connection with his death. All are listed by police as having no fixed address.

The bill was launched in 1999 by the former Conservative government and then premier Mike Harris, and passed in 2000.

Social activists criticized the law as too aggressive. In 2001, a court challenge argued the province overstepped its jurisdiction by trying to pass a Criminal Code law, which is the federal government's responsibility. They also argued the law violated people's freedom of expression.

A provincial judge upheld the law, but did acknowledge it infringed on individual liberties.

With files from the Canadian Press

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