Canadian Town Bans Spitting, Swearing And Gathering In Groups Of Three Or More

from the law-enforcement-brain-trust-baffled-by-backlash dept

Taber, a town of 8,100 in Alberta, Canada, must be in the midst of the nation’s smallest and least impressive crimewave. How else would you explain the town’s new “Community Standards Bylaw,” which imposes the following on its residents?

With a sweeping new bylaw, the southern Alberta town of Taber has outlawed swearing in public, instituted a nightly curfew on kids and teenagers, and granted local law enforcement the power to break up any assemblies of three or more people.

It’s petty enough in the summary, but it gets even worse in the fine print.

Here’s the “swearing” part of the bylaw:

No person shall yell, scream, or swear in any Public Place.

Which won’t hold up to Canada’s free speech laws, even with the plentiful exceptions the government can enact at any time. And it will apparently be up to patrolling officers to decide when a raised voice constitutes a “yell,” and always with one ear cocked towards any errant public swearing occuring at lower volumes.

Then there’s this part of the bylaw, which makes possibly disturbing others a crime.

No persons shall, during any period of the day allow, suffer or permit any electronic equipment, musical instruments, vehicles or any other devices to be sounded or used in any area of the Town of Taber, that may, or is likely, to disturb others.

There’s also a clause apparently inserted by Taber’s Behavior Nazis solely to anger the world’s Grammar Nazis.

And bad cops will have all sorts of fun with this one:

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 neighborhood, and any such person shall disperse as requested by a Peace Officer.

“Reasonable grounds.” As is common to the rest of the bylaw, criminal intent is scuttled in preference of “whatever the Peace Officer believes.”

So, what has prompted this move towards a more controlled populace? The answer appears to be that it’s just something the town’s law enforcement wanted.

[Police Commission Chairman Ken] Holst said the goal of the bylaw was “to give another layer of tools to our police service.”

He said it came largely in response to concerns raised by citizens in a survey commissioned by the Taber Police Service.

“Graffiti was the main concern and the second concern was large gatherings of youth and other people on town property, sometimes causing issues,” he said.

While some of those issues could be addressed through existing provincial and federal laws, Holst said Taber wanted to empower its law enforcement when an offence is “imminent to occur,” which he described as “preventative policing.”

Ah, the old “thoughtcrime,” as practiced by loitering youths. Holst didn’t want this community of 8,100 to suffer the existential threat posed by aimless teens, so he and his law enforcement buddies helped write the bylaw.

Holst said the bylaw was drafted by town staff and the Taber Police Service and was reviewed by the police commission before being sent on to town council, where it was approved by a 6-1 vote.

And, since it was written by law enforcement, there was apparently no need to ensure the bylaw didn’t violate anyone’s rights or would even hold up in court. Because who knows the law better than law enforcement officers? No one, that’s who. Just ask any cop.

Holst said no lawyers were involved in the police commission’s review and they didn’t discuss whether aspects of the bylaw would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms…

“Exactly how that sits with the Charter, to be 100 per cent honest with you, that discussion did not come up with the commission,” Holst said.

Because screw the public.

Save that 100%, Holst. You’re going to need it. Here’s an actual legal expert with 45 years experience, and he’s of the opinion there’s a 100% chance it’s in violation.

“It clearly, clearly infringes the Charter,” [Michael] Dietrich said.

And now that the ridiculous bylaw has drawn mockery from around the internet, Holst and other city representatives are shocked and saddened by all the criticism.

“It hurts my heart,” Ken Holst said Tuesday. “I’m hurt today to read some of the extreme comments that have circulated on social media…”

“We really feel this is the best for Taber and makes it a better place, as opposed to ‘the worst place on Earth,’ as the way some people are portraying this,” he said.

Holst further defended his stupid bylaw by pointing to other similarly stupid Canadian towns that have enacted similarly stupid bylaws. Presumably, this belated justification will also not be run by any legal experts — armchair or actual — who may point out that two wrongs still don’t equal a right, no matter what some informal, police-guided survey might “indicate.”

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Comments on “Canadian Town Bans Spitting, Swearing And Gathering In Groups Of Three Or More”

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Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: One good thing will come out of this

Actually, something wonderful has already come out of the town’s ‘Footloose’ ban:

That’s why the citizens group Save Us Bacon is arguing that Taber needs a hero. And that hero, they say, is Kevin Bacon.

The group’s goal is to raise enough money to pay Bacon to fly to Taber to host a “raucous dance party/protest against an embarrassing, archaic, vaguely worded law passed by an out of touch town-council — held of course, just outside of Taber. Help us bring a big city kid to a small town who knows he has to win.”

streetlight (profile) says:

Sounds like the police could shut down everything

Everything might include church services in which more than three people attended, a company picnic, a backyard barbeque of mom, dad and their two children, a retail establishment with three or more customers including a cafe, restaurant or bar, a classical music concert in the park with fireworks on Canada Day. Why would anyone want to live in such a place?

streetlight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sounds like the police could shut down everything

There may be some ambiguity about whether your back yard is a Public Place. Item 18 states that noise that may come from a private place is subject to this bylaw. Furthermore, the bylaw discusses application to private places that the public normally has access to. I think this probably applies retail establishments like restaurants or bars but might include the backyard of a house if the owner allows folks to pass through to get to some site back of the house like a park or hiking trail.

bob says:

Re: This is the purpose of separation of powers.

Because the city council members are too lazy to do their job and make sure the laws they pass are legitimate. But as the article said they thought it would be better for the community if they did pass this bylaw. Hence the members of the community should either vote out the council members if they don’t like how things are run.

I doesn’t matter who originally wrote the law but you should be more skeptical if the person writing the law is directly involved with the enforcing of it or is on the receiving end of it.

ECA (profile) says:

How many idiots, to screw in a light bulb?

“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 neighborhood,”

So this has nothing to do with Public annoyance? its IF’ the police THINK its a disturbance..
So, as a public Citizen, I cant DECLARE the counsel an assembly WILL disturb the populace??

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How many idiots, to screw in a light bulb?

It sounds like there is a group or several groups of 3 or more individuals who the police would like to harass but cannot as the current laws didn’t allow it. So now the law has been changed so the harassment can proceed.

Taber, If we don’t like you and your not breaking the law, we’ll change the law.

Harold says:

My traffic accident

So I am driving thru this town with my buddies in the back, have a traffic accident with the cop (who ran into me when he ran a red light, without his red light and siren running).

Now because of the accident my horn is blowing loudly, and if I get out yell a profanity at the cop (because of the horn of course), and my friends get out and yell at the cop, we all get fined and maybe jailed because the cop screwed up!

Sounds like Canada!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Well

“If they add “scratching inappropriate places” to the list, then the Canadians will finally have a reason to get rid of the Blue Jays.”

It’s been illegal in professional baseball for pitchers to scratch their balls (or wax, tar, grease, or spit on them) since 1920 — long before the Blue Jays were born — even though the tradition lingered on for many decades post-ban.

Anonymous Coward says:

And they didn't think of...

whenever the council of turdbags assemble to vote on something the police doesn’t like, there will suddenly be a illegal assembly taking place since it will all be up to the “peace officer”.
Everything, even the wording, reminds me of the show called Farscape and their peace keepers who are a bunch of nazi wannabe aholes.
YES I said aholes… what are you gonna do? arrest me? Hey what are you doing in my house? Get that nightstick out of my face…

gant says:

*Not* involving lawyers in drafting laws is not that stupid as you may think. It’s rather efficient, I guess:

1. no complicated drafting process. Just get it done quickly.
2. put the law into effect.
3. people have to abide the law.

Alternative: do not abide and fight the law. Make sure that you can afford the legal battle and the risk involved.
Until someone finally goes this road, the law has done what it’s creators wanted.

More over, since no one gets punished for making bad laws, it doesn’t stop them from doing it over and over again. I suppose they assess and estimate the time period their bad law presumably will remain in effect right from the start. If it remains unchallenged any time longer, it’s a bonus ‘win’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Taber is a biggish town on the prairie that you have to slow down for 2 or 3 minutes to get through with nothing in it. Great sweet corn in the fall though – get you some of that. The cops are probably having probably having problems with bored teenagers, and the same 4 bored teenagers at that, looking for something anything to break up the monotony every night. Having lived in towns like Taber growing up, I was one of those 4.

That said, this is BS move by the city council.

David says:

And just like that

Automobiles banned at night.

No persons shall, during any period of the day allow, suffer or permit any electronic equipment, musical instruments, vehicles or any other devices to be sounded or used in any area of the Town of Taber, that may, or is likely, to disturb others.

I can testify that I sleep much better now that I am living in a solitary house away from travelled roads than when I lived in a city.

So any vehicle sounding at night is provably disturbing my sleep. If I ever move to Taber, I can demand that nobody drives a car in town at night. Or during my nap.

That’s impressive. To say the least.

Dan G Difino says:

Update Us, Eh?

It will be funny to see the Chief of Police of Taber, Alb be the first one arrested for the non free speech! But, all in all, its good to see the people of Taber getting all the bang for their tax canadian bucks out of this bunch down at city hall! Sounds like they’ve got it pretty well covered. They’ll be arresting the cheerleader squad. Lets see.. the football, baseball team and hockey teams lining up for hotdogs and icecream cones. Who else? There goes the neighborhood.

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