Is Panhandling Illegal in Ontario?

If you spend time in urban areas, you have probably encountered panhandlers. The majority of panhandlers are not aggressive, but a select few can be quite forceful about asking for money. Understandably, many people get nervous when a panhandler acts aggressively toward them. If you have encountered a panhandler, you may have wondered whether it’s actually legal to engage in this activity.

The Law on Panhandling in Ontario
Ontario is one of the only provinces in the country to expressly ban aggressive panhandling. The Safe Street Act has been in place since 1999. Although few other provinces or territories have an aggressive panhandling law, there is similar legislation in several municipalities throughout the nation, including Vancouver, Quebec City, and Calgary.

In Ontario, a person who acts aggressively while soliciting money on the street can be fined a minimum of $500 for a first offence. Subsequent fines go up to $1,000 per offence. A panhandler convicted of violating the Act can also be sentenced to time in prison.

The Safe Street Act has survived a couple legal challenges. Most recently, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the Act in 2007. In 2004, British Columbia passed panhandling legislation similar to that in Ontario.

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