Between its creation in 2003 and its forced closure in 2007, the TDP collected approximately 1,200 tickets issued to street-involved people for SSA and related offences.153 Of these tickets, TDP agents contested approximately 1,000. The overwhelming majority of these were “first appearances” during which charges were withdrawn by the provincial prosecutor or dismissed by the Justice of the Peace. The TDP only proceeded to trial in a minority of cases, and, if required, agents consulted with law students and lawyers and developed legal arguments. The TDP agents were very successful at trial: several charges were thrown out on technicalities (the ticket referred to an incorrect legislative provision) or for lack of evidence (the police or enforcement officer was not present to speak to the charges).
In 90-95 percent of these cases, the charged were dropped in accordance with the POA and, with the exception of those cases where clients waived their rights, under section 11 of the Charter, which protects an accused person’s right to be tried in a reasonable time. In the remaining cases, the fines were substantially reduced or waived because the TDP agents brought critical evidence to the court about the unique circumstances in which street-involved people found themselves, having to pay fines for having requested spare change. Most importantly perhaps, during this hiatus, street-involved people in Ottawa experienced less police harassment in the form of SSA tickets for passive panhandling. The small respite for street-involved people was short-lived. A few months after its overwhelming success before the provincial court, the TDP was forced to cease operations.
TDP 2.0, 2015-Present
The Ticket Defence Program (TDP) was recently re-established by Professor Suzanne Bouclin as a community-based and mobile legal clinic. Based at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, it seeks to fill a growing need for a segment of the population with no other legal recourse available to them: homeless and street-involved people. Briefly, community clinics do not have the mandate to offer representation on municipal and provincial offences and Legal Aid certificates do not apply to these matters. Nevertheless, these tickets have a very real and on-going impact on a very vulnerable segment of the population. The vast majority are tried and found guilty in abstentia. Fines and charges accrue and adversely affect their ability to qualify for housing, to maintain a good credit rating, to obtain official documents, and ultimately, render already vulnerable people in a more precarious financial, emotional, and physical situation. The TDP matches licensed lawyers who offer their services on a pro bono basis with students to work with low-income, marginalized, and street-involved people who have no other means of addressing their administrative and provincial offence matters. The TDP operates through drop-in hours at community partners such as the Centretown Community Health Centre, the Ottawa Mission, and Centre 454. Law students are provided the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and get to be part of a truly unique access to justice initiative.
Le Programme de contestation des contraventions (PCC, en anglais, le Ticket Defence Program) fut relancé à la Faculté de Droit, section de Common Law à l’Université d’Ottawa par la professeure Suzanne Bouclin en automne 2014. Le PDC opère comme une clinique communautaire au sein de laquelle collaborent des étudiants en droit, des avocats et des partenaires du milieu communautaire. Des étudiants accompagnés d’un avocat offrent des heures de consultation sans rendez-vous dans les locaux de nos partenaires communautaires. Cette façon de procéder nous permet de rejoindre plus facilement notre clientèle et surtout, de rencontrer les clients dans un lieu qu’ils connaissent et qui est facilement accessible par eux. Lors de la consultation, les étudiantEs et l’avocatE accompagnateur offrent de l’information au client sur diverses questions juridiques soulevées par son cas. Ils et elles lui présentent également les diverses options qui s’offrent à lui : contester son constat d’infraction, avec ou sans l’aide du PCC, négocier le paiement de l’amende, etc.
Suzanne Bouclin, “Regulated Out of Existence: A Case Study of Ottawa’s Ticket Defence Program” (2014) 11 Journal of Law & Equity 35 at 36, online: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2465976.