In most civilised societies, a young man or woman rushing up to your car at an intersection to clean your windscreen for a dollar or two would be, at worst, a minor irritant and, at best, a bargain. But in British Columbia, they may soon be criminals. The force of the law - something called the Safe Streets Act - is about to be turned against the so-called 'squeegee kids' whose numbers are growing in Canadian cities. Aggressive beggars are also being targeted. The people who will happily pay C$15 ($95) to park their sports utility vehicles during a shopping trip do not like to be confronted by the insistent poor. The timing is ironic. Only a month ago, Canadians dug into their wallets and donated C$150 million to tsunami victims. But charity at home comes harder. Writer James Baldwin, raised in Harlem, once said: 'Anybody who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.' It will soon get more expensive for Vancouver's poor who fall foul of the law. Six other Canadian cities have similar laws. But how does a beggar pay a C$100 fine? Granted, most of us at one time or another have been inconvenienced, or even frightened, by an unfriendly beggar. But we have governments to protect us from our worst instincts. I do not want my fitful middle-class impatience to be translated into a new law. Aggressive poverty is human nature. You do not have to be a Marxist-Leninist to believe that the distribution of wealth is unfair. So, within the law and within reason, if you are poor, you do something about it. In Shenzhen, some years ago, I was approached by two very cute, and very poor, young girls. They wrapped themselves around my legs, tightly, and smiled. For 30 seconds, it was sweet. After three minutes of struggling, I was desperate. Some people call them the 'Cling-on Kids'. They target tourists and they only let go when you give them 10 yuan each. In Haiti, you have to negotiate with pesky urchins who fight over your luggage at the main airport. In India, I have my shoes shined six times a day. The problem with North Americans is that we do not mind giving to the poor, but we want something in return - like an imaginative hard-luck story or gushing gratitude, or maybe some entertainment. Or even just plain middle-class civility. Poverty may be soul-destroying, and infuriating, but when we see that anger, we want to call the police for help. Last year, a local politician, Lorne Mayencourt, during lobbying for the Safe Streets Act, said that Vancouver has suffered 'awful, awful atrocities' from the angry poor. He got it wrong. It is poverty amid plenty that is the real atrocity.