Panhandling And The Law

Cabbagetown Living

Panhandling And The Law

This post was created by the Cabbagetown BIA staff with assistance from Downtown Yonge BIA


Panhandling in busy urban areas such as Toronto is not uncommon. While the act of panhandling can annoy, it is not always illegal. To dispel the myths around panhandling we’ve rounded up some facts you need to know.


FirsThe hand of a panhandler asking for change, in Montreal. The Canadian Press Images/Denis Beaumontt up, panhandling on public property is considered legal unless the panhandler is threatening physical harm, obstructing your path, using abusive language, following you along your walk (not staying stationary and allowing you to pass), intoxicated or keeps asking after you’ve already declined. No one is allowed to panhandle at an ATM, payphone, or public washroom, public transit stop or taxi stand, on a public transit vehicle, while you are getting in our out of your private vehicle, in a parking lot or if you are in your vehicle on the road.

A panhandler who does any of the above can face a fine or imprisonment. (See the Ontario Safe Street Act for more info.) Keep in mind, the panhandler sitting at the corner patiently with a cardboard sign asking “spare change?,” is likely not doing anything illegal.


To avoid panhandling on private properties, property owners can be proactive and post a sign stating panhandling is prohibited. (See the Ontario Trespass to Property Act for more info.) If a sign is not posted the owner must direct the panhandler to leave immediately. If after they have been directed to leave they continue or if a sign is already posted, the panhandler can be fined under the act.

Photo Credit Nick Krug for


Many panhandlers do not want to panhandle and do so to secure basic needs such as food, shelter and other essentials. The Downtown Yonge BIA has assembled a waterproof booklet listing social service providers in the downtown Toronto core who offer support. You can view the booklet by clicking here or pick up a printed copy at the Cabbagetown BIA at 237 Carlton Street. If you engage with a panhandler and they identify their needs this booklet is something you or they can refer to.

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Top Image Credit: The Canadian Press Images/Denis Beaumont
Lower Image Credit: Krug

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