At least eight people have been evicted from an apartment building in St. Stephen because they were suspected of participating in drug activity.
On Wednesday, RCMP and court sheriffs were helping provincial public safety officers in evicting the tenants from the building on Schoodic Street. At least one person was taken into an RCMP vehicle.
St. Stephen Mayor Allan MacEachern said this building has been a source of many complaints in the past because of a lot of traffic, loud fights and parties “all hours of the night,” and had a reputation of being a “drug house.”
He said police couldn’t do anything, so neighbours resorted to making a complaint through the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods program — a provincial program that allows the province to shut down properties that are suspected of being used for illegal activities for up to 90 days.
“They can approach a different way and they can deal with the landlord,” MacEachern said in an interview Wednesday.
The SCAN program is not a criminal process and no charges can be laid through it. No criminality needs to be proven for an eviction to take place.
A SCAN investigation is triggered by a complaint from anyone who believes illegal activity such as prostitution and drug trafficking is taking place.
MacEachern said SCAN officers have been investigating the building for several weeks, and found enough evidence to serve the landlord with the shutdown order Wednesday.
The RCMP have not returned a request for information.
What happens next?
MacEachern said he’s not sure what will happen to people who were evicted. According to the province’s website, SCAN “works closely with social and community agencies to ensure other arrangements can be made for those affected by a building closure.”
MacEachern did not have details of those arrangements when he spoke to CBC News on Wednesday.
He said he knows there’s a risk this may not solve the problem, but rather just displace it.
“That’s something we’re going to learn in the process,” he said.
Tenants’ rights advocates have previously spoken out against the SCAN process. They’ve said criminal courts and the Residential Tenancies Act are already in place, and skipping the criminal process when criminality is suspected is not fair.
Message to landlords
The mayor, however, said he is not concerned about the potential of some people being wrongly evicted because he trusts in the system. He said he believes the SCAN officers, who are public safety officers, did their due diligence to confirm that illegal activity was taking place.
He said he hopes this sends a message to landlords that their properties would be affected if illegal activity happens there.
MacEachern confirmed SCAN officers are monitoring another building in St. Stephen but would not share details because the investigation is still going on.
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