SCAN Act amendments met with pushback

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In 2009, the provincial government passed a program called The Safer Communities and Neighbourhood Act (SCAN). It was created to allow authorities to go through civil court instead of criminal courts to pressure those involved in illicit activities out of neighbourhoods. 

Green MLA Kevin Arseneau and P.C. MLA and Minister of Justice and Public Safety Ted Flemming argued during a meeting on Wednesday, January 26 discussing SCAN Act amendments. (Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick/Screenshot)

Under SCAN, citizens can file complaints if they believe a resident in their area is promoting crime, unlawfully selling or consuming cannabis or alcohol, producing, selling, or using illegal drugs, involved in prostitution, or is partaking in the sexual abuse of a child. 

Once a complaint is issued, public safety officers—who do not have to be police officers—are allowed to investigate a building’s tenants. Whatever is found in these investigations can be submitted to a court to receive a community safety order. These orders allow them to evict tenants and close the building down for up to three months. 

Criticism

A property closed down by the SCAN Act in Alberta. (Karsen Marczuk/Lethbridge Now)

Many critics have pointed out that SCAN is simply unnecessary as there are already systems in place to deal with issues like this. The New Brunswick Tenants’ Rights Coalition highlights that the Residential Tenancies Act and criminal courts are already in place in New Brunswick and that SCAN skips the criminal process completely. The President of The New Brunswick Tenants’ Rights Coalition, Jael Duarte, says that the SCAN Act is “…having consequences for people who are seen as being different”. 

Recent developments

On Wednesday, January 26, the SCAN Act came under question during a debate in the Provincial Legislature with the Minister of Justice and Public Safety, Ted Flemming becoming frustrated with Kevin Arseneau, a Green MLA. Flemming and Arseneau butted heads over whether or not a committee vote on amendments to the SCAN act should advance. 

Arseneau said he was not prepared to vote on the matter because he had more questions to be answered by the Progressive Conservative government. Flemming did not appear happy to hear this as he continued to push for the vote to happen. Furthermore, he said he simply did not have the information that Arseneau was seeking from him. In the Legislature, MLAs are allotted an unlimited number of questions and Chair of the committee, P.C. MLA Greg Turner, assured Arseneau of this right. 

Flemming’s proposed amendments 

Flemming proposed amendments to protect the anonymity of those who file complaints, leading to the permission of hearsay evidence in court. Moreover, the proposed amendments would allow judges easier access to issue orders under the SCAN Act. 

The amendments have gone through two readings in the legislature and are required to be approved by a committee before it returns to the floor for a final vote. Flemming is adamant that the legislation benefits the province even though there have been many complaints. Notably, Flemming has been under fire for referring to the subjects of investigations under the act as “criminals” even though no charges have been pressed yet in the judicial process. 

Ted Flemming says that he encourages those who oppose the statute to challenge it under the constitution.