Canadian Town Hates First Amendment, Bans Spittin', Cussin', And Hullabaloos

The Canadian town of Taber, Alberta (in the human-occupied portion of that exotic northernmost U.S. Territory), has created quite the big to-do with a new "Community Standards bylaw" that restricts public speech and behaviour, probably in open violation of the Canadian Constitution, which is cute because they think they have one of those just like we do. The bylaw has proven controversial, and there is every anticipation that the fuss may soon degenerate into a state of open hullabaloo.

The bylaw was apparently adopted in reaction to an outbreak of incordiality among the people of Taber, which our Canadian Tipster "J." describes as "a kinda/sorta hick town," noting that "Buds down there use the f-word like it's a preposition" and advising that while the law seems intended at enhancing public order, "there have to be more legal ways to get serious moron rednecks to, at least, be polite in public."

And just how restrictive is the new bylaw? Take a Gander (Newf) at these offences and penalties, eh?

First offence penalties for infractions under Taber’s Community Standards Bylaw 4-2015:

  • Parent/guardian allow minor in public place during curfew: $100
  • Placing graffiti on property:$2,500
  • Failure to remove graffiti: $250
  • Urinating/depositing human waste in public place: $250
  • Spitting in public place: $75
  • Fighting in a public place: $250
  • Being a member of an assembly and failing to disperse as directed by a peace officer: $250
  • Loitering: $250
  • Panhandling: $75
  • Yelling, screaming or swearing: $150
  • Drinking establishment making noise: $2,000
  • Allow, suffer or permit noise likely to disturb others: $150
  • Allow, suffer or permit noise from premises or property: $150
  • Allow, suffer or permit noise from vehicle: $150
  • Activate or apply engine retarder brakes: $150
  • Allow or permit noise between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.: $150

Local paper the Taber Times notes that some of the provisions may actually be rather poorly defined, such as the rule stating that “No person shall be a member of the assembly of three or more persons in any public place where a peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe the assembly will disturb the peace of the neighbourhood, and any such person shall disperse as requested by a peace officer.” That gives disturbingly broad latitude to the local law enforcers:

Notably, this inclusion specifies the power to disperse an assembly when a “peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe” an assembly will disturb the peace. Under a strict interpretation, this would give local law enforcement the power to disperse an otherwise peaceful assembly based only on an officer’s discretion — not whether an assembly was actually causing a disturbance of the peace.

Heck, "freedom of peaceful assembly" is even allowed in Canada, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is like a cheap foreign knockoff of the Bill of Rights, only nowhere near as good because it doesn't include a Second Amendment, which as we all know is the only true guarantor of freedom and politeness.

An article in Metro News Canada (they have websites and everything up there, though some are made of beaver pelts) cites the heavy sighs of one Lisa Lambert, a political science PhD candidate at the University of Calgary; Ms. Lambert believes the bylaw is pretty obviously unconstitutional:

“Little towns get bad names because of this kind of nonsense,” Lambert said. “This is so embarrassing.”

The way the bylaw is worded, even whispering a curse word in public could land you a $150 fine, Lambert noted, while events like bake sales and car washes could be caught up under the “panhandling” definition.

There’s “just no way” it would stand up to a Charter challenge, she added.

Lambert then bit her tongue before she accidentally slipped and said it sounded like the sort of idiocy they'd come up with in the U.S.

Mayor Henk De Vlieger offered qualified support for the bylaw:

“I’m in support...I’m not saying this thing is perfect, but I think we should give it a chance and try it out, and let the police work with it. After a period of time, we might make some adjustments, but let’s see how it works.”

Councilor Joe Strojwas was the only member of the town council to oppose the measure, arguing that it went too far. For instance, the $2500 fine for graffiti struck him as unreasonable, even in Canadian dollars we guess:

“Generally, graffiti is done by 12 or 13 year old kids ... Do I gather if they get caught doing that they get a $2,500 fine? Do their parents have to pay that?”

Apparently Mr. Strojwas is not familiar with how Canadian criminality starts out simple and soon becomes rampant. It begins when kids write some innocent graffiti, and then proceeds to more heinous crimes, like failing to hold the door open for someone coming in right behind them, even if they're holding an armload of groceries. And before you know it, people are sounding their car horns after dark and applying engine retarder brakes right in the middle of town!

No one in the discussion so far seems to have recognized the real problem: It stands to reason that Taber would pass a bunch of fascist restrictions on personal freedom, because that's just the natural result of socialized medicine. Our Tea Party tried to warn you, Canada.

Metro News notes that Taber "is a town of 8,000 people located about 250 kilometres southeast of Calgary." Which pretty much tells you where Ted Cruz got that snotty punk attitude of his.

For our part, Yr. Wonkette is glad to see that someone's cracking down on all the hoopla.

We say it's high time to start weighing heads and taking names.

[Taber Times / National Post / MetroNews via tip from our Canadian Friend "J"]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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