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Kendall Worth: No remedy for poor people against harassment by police and mall security

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Earlier I wrote about welfare recipients getting bothered by police and security guards about their involuntary body movements such as fidgeting, wiggling or speaking aloud. People complain that they are intoxicated, even though they are not drinking.

See also: In Halifax police and security guards are harassing poor people with mental health issues

I have written several other stories about this issue and what people have tried to do about it.

Their complaints to police and mall managers were not taken seriously. Police told them members of the public were within their right to report this type of behaviour to mall security as well as police!

In order to be protected from harassment by mall security some income assistance recipients would get volunteers from a soup kitchen to accompany them. That way they could run their errands at the mall on income assistance check day.

With the volunteer around the security guards kept a close eye on them, but would not approach them.

The question is, were the security guards leaving the men alone just  because the volunteer was with them and they did not want the volunteer to cause trouble?

Some decided to meet with Legal Aid to take legal action against the mall and the police. After all, when they were approached and spoken to all they were was minding their own business and they were not causing any trouble.

Legal Aid however decided that they could not take their case.

Then a couple who are better off and friends with one of the men made a donation to sit down with a private lawyer to look into legal action.

This lawyer took a few weeks to do the research, meeting with mall adminstration and the security supervisor. The lawyer also got to the watch the surveillance video.

He found that  the public was in their right to be making those complaints, and he advised them that legal action would not be appropriate. He told them that the surveillance videos showed that they were staring at people, wiggling, fidgeting, and behaving as if intoxicated, even though they were not drinking. 

So these welfare recipients are now in a position where they have no choice but to have to deal with this for the rest of their lives.

Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.

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