Just 540 people call Leaf Rapids home, but if Mayor Ed Charrier has his way, that number could get even smaller. He’s considering a novel way to deal with disorderly locals in his northern Manitoba town: exile. Under a proposed municipal bylaw, anyone who breaks the law three times in a year could be banished. “It’s three strikes, you’re outta here,” he says. There’s just one thing standing in his way—the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The proposed bylaw, Charrier says, is an attempt to deal with “never-ending crime and violence” in the town, which has been plagued by unemployment since the Ruttan Mine closed in 2002. The local RCMP detachment insists crime there is no worse than in any comparable town in northern Manitoba, but Charrier is unapologetic. “If you’ve been in my drunk tank three times in one year—you have to go for rehab or incarceration,” he says. And “you’re not coming back here till you do.”
Such a bylaw would be unlikely to survive a court challenge, says Karen Busby, a law professor at the University of Manitoba. The Canadian Charter protects the right to live where you want, she says, and in 1997 the Supreme Court ruled against a bylaw in Longueuil, Que., requiring municipal employees to live in the city. Based on that decision, Busby says Leaf Rapids should get a Charter opinion before passing the law.
Charrier says he has no intention of doing so. Still, whether the “three strikes” bylaw would actually be used to kick miscreants out of town is open to debate. After all, Leaf Rapids has a history of introducing colourful (if somewhat symbolic) bylaws: in 2007, it put itself on the map by becoming the first Canadian municipality to ban plastic bags. Next up? Canada’s first bylaw allowing golf carts on city streets. “You couldn’t use them in winter,” Charrier admits. Other than that, though, “they’re just so practical.”