Deconstructing the Panhandling Norms: Federated Anti-Poverty Groups of B.C. V. Vancouver (City )and Western Print Media

AuthorRaewyn Brewer
Pages25-39
25 AP PE AL V OL UM E 10 2005
DECONSTRUCTING THE
PANHANDLING NORMS:
FEDERATED ANTI-POVERTY GROUPS OF B.C.
v. VANCOUVER (CITY) AND WESTERN
PRINT MEDIA
Raewyn Brewer
Introduction
Now, at nineteen, she’s so brimming with goodness that she sits
on a Toronto street corner […] Norah sits cross-legged with a
begging bowl in her lap and asks nothing of the world. Nine-
tenths of what she gathers she distributes at the end of the day to
other street people. She wears a cardboard sign on her chest: a
single word printed in black markerGOODNESS.
1
Norah is Reta Winters’ daughter. Reta is the narrator of Carol Shields’
Unless. Shields’ novel, however, is not about panhandling per se.
Rather, Unless traces the impact Norah’s situation has on her family.
While Norah sits passively on the corner of Bathurst and Bloor and
passersby drop money into her bowl, her mother writes “My heart is
broken” on a washroom wall.
2
Norah’s father surmises a traumatic
event may have triggered her move to the street. Her two younger
sisters sit beside her every Saturday afternoon, sandwiches and water
in tow. Yet one is sleeping poorly, the other falling behind in math.
Norah’s behaviour does not attract a legal response. No law
enforcement officer approaches Norah and asks her to move. No law
enforcement officer tells Norah she could be fined. However, if
1
C. Shields, Unless (Toronto: Random House Canada, 2002) at 11-12.
2
Ibid. at 67.

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