Manitoba is proposing a new law giving police officers the power to seize alcohol from a booze can or kick a known gang member out of licensed bar or restaurant even though no crime has been committed.
City of Winnipeg Minister Kevin Chief said Thursday the province is trying to balance the rights of individuals as well as keeping the community safe.
Police also say it will give them the edge in shutting down chronic party houses and keeping gang members in check — removing the onus that’s currently put on frustrated neighbours or a restaurant owner who fears reprisals if they ask a gang member to leave their premise.
Winnipeg police Staff Sgt. Kelly Dennison said the new law takes it up a notch from what’s already on the books in Alberta.
Police in that province have had the authority to remove gang members from licensed establishments since 2010.
Manitoba’s version will include known violent criminals and allow police to remove them if they believe there is a risk to public safety.
Dennison said police and Manitoba Justice have done their homework to ensure the proposed legislation escapes any court challenge.
“The research that went into this legislation was extensive. As in the Criminal Code or any legislation we deal with, people challenge it on a daily basis. All we can do is to try to use this new legislation, interpret it properly, so we don’t get that.”
Dennison said the experience in Alberta in most situations is that gang members are aware of the law and leave a licensed premise voluntarily when an officer approaches them.
Scott Jocelyn of Manitoba Restaurant & Food Services Association said he welcomed the proposed changes, but added how it will be put into practice will determine whether it’s a benefit to the industry.
“The average employee gets to know their customers, but I don’t think they’re going to know, ‘OK, that’s a gang member,“’ he said. “I don’t know how you would know someone was trouble. You certainly wouldn’t want to call police and say, ‘Hey, I got a gut feeling.“’
The new measures are part of a push to modernize the province’s liquor laws and will be administered by the new Manitoba Liquor and Gaming Authority. The province expects to have a new act in place by 2014.