A Saskatchewan city has adopted a back alley curfew bylaw in a move it says could help reduce the city's crime rate.
North Battleford's city council voted Wednesday to pass a bylaw that will restrict some non-residents from strolling alleys — among other activities — from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. CST, starting in 2024. Offenders can face a fine from $250 up to a maximum of $2,500.
"No person shall walk through, drive through, be located in or otherwise use an alley during the restricted access period," the bylaw said.
The bylaw only concerns alleys and does not apply to permanent residents, employees, employers, guests or emergency situations.
However, that doesn't stop authorities from checking on residents in North Battleford.
Tashi Alford-Duguid, a staff lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the bylaw could open the door for carding —- an action involving the stopping, questioning and documenting of individuals when no particular offence is being investigated. (Shlok Talati/CBC)
Tashi Alford-Duguid, a staff lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said this could open the door for carding — an action involving the stopping, questioning and documenting of individuals when no particular offence is being investigated.
"The world famous case of it, or that captured global attention, was New York city's approach to carding," he said. "There were many protests about this, public concerns, and when it was finally formally studied on a few different dimensions, it was plain that the policy was discriminatory."
Alford-Duguid said curfews should be approached with caution.
"In many jurisdictions where there is a worry about night time crime or night time public safety, there are informational posters put up to help people inform, be safer by virtue of being informed, or more practically — street lights," Alford-Duguid said.
"Although not in every case, there's some empirical research that indicates many unsafe places can be made safer by illuminating them."
Candace Toma, a spokesperson for North Battleford, said in response that the city has several initiatives to enhance community safety.
Toma said the curfew policy is intended to prevent people from accessing alleyways that are typically dimly lit.
Through the bylaw, any people in an alley during curfew hours will have to identify themselves to a law enforcement authority, if asked.
According to Statistics Canada data, North Battleford recorded an overall crime severity index (CSI) of 557.1, its highest since StatsCan started recording the figure in 1998. The CSI is based on volume and severity of reported crimes. The rating was a significant increase from the city's score of 480.7 the year before.
Ahead of the release of this year's numbers, the city issued a media release questioning the relevance of CSI data.
"With the City's population at slightly more than 14,000, North Battleford is often singled out when the Crime Severity Index rates are populated in comparison to other communities with higher populations," the release said.
"To state that North Battleford is the 'crime capital of Canada' or to refer to it as 'Crime Town', as it has been mischaracterized for many years, is a short-sighted and oversimplified dismissal of what are much deeper societal issues impacting much of Saskatchewan."
Early last year, Prince Albert passed a similar curfew bylaw, followed by the Town of Nipawin later in November.
Toma said RCMP suggested the bylaw after seeing similar rules help in other places. She said the law has only been brought into place to limit the access of "persons who should not be using alleyways."
"I can't speculate as to the practices for law enforcement, but this isn't something that is looking to be punitive in any way. It's more to encourage people to utilize well-lit streets versus using dimly lit alleyways. So it's not in any way shape or form a way to target anyone."
North Battleford RCMP said they weren't available for a comment on the law.