208 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 2 MARCH 2019
inal Code, federal or provincial regulatory statutes or civil ordinances and
Some of you may think I jest or have resorted to hyperbole, so allow me
Anyone who steals a loaf of bread—commonly referred to as shoplifting—
is subject to being charged with the offence of theft pursuant to the
Criminal Code. The punishment for this offence, on summary conviction, is
a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to six months or both.
Last year the Allard School of Law’s Criminal Law Clinic assisted a person
charged with shoplifting baby formula. He was a 45-year-old man who
had come to Canada as a refugee from the war in Serbia. He was unemployed
and disabled, having suffered a back injury which included leakage
of spinal fluid. He had long suffered from PTSD. He was on medication for
depression and took painkillers for his back. He was known to act erratically.
He and his common law wife had no money, but they did have a newborn.
He had two prior convictions for shoplifting: one in 2013 for a pair of
socks and one in 2015 for a pair of shoes. Do the words necessities of life
come to mind? In the result, he was granted a conditional discharge. It is
doubtful the result would have been the same if he had not been represented
With respect to “sleeping under bridges” we have s. 10 of Vancouver’s
Parks Control Bylaw, which provides that “no person shall … take up a temporary
abode overnight in any place on any portion of any park”. This offence
is subject to a fine of not less than $250 and not more than $2,000. As you
can see, some things do change. We no longer restrict this dire offence to
bridges. Stanley Park should be a good source of income for the city.
Finally, “begging in the streets”. This bit of malfeasance is governed by
provincial statute—namely, the Safe Streets Act of 2004. This benignly
named statute prohibits soliciting another person using the spoken, written
or printed word or by gesture for the purpose of receiving money or anything
of value. That, of course, is legalese for “begging”. This statute makes
it an offence to bug people for the odd coin—in other words, being aggressive
(i.e., persistent); you can’t ask the same person for money a second
time after they have said “no” or ignored you.
Further, you can’t beg near a bus stop, taxi stand, ATM, payphone or on
a roadway which includes medians. The penalty for an offence under the
statute is a fine ranging from $86 to $215. I note, sarcastically, that it’s
always a good idea to impose a monetary penalty on someone who doesn’t
have any money. To me, that breathes life into the fictional words of Mr.
Bumble in Dickens’s Oliver Twist: “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass—