Kamloops is considering some new bylaws to deal with public nuisances who behave badly on city streets. Among the list of offenses that could land you a $150 fine, according to a report by Andrea Klassen for Kamloops This Week, is swearing.
I understand why the city might want to target this behaviour – no one likes the guy outside your window screaming obscenities up the street at 2 a.m. – but the city and council has to seriously consider the implications of such a law, both in terms of restriction of free speech and the likely disastrous public response.
At the front of the minds of those considering this bylaw should be Taber, Alberta, the town of 8,100 that embarrassed itself by bringing in the “Community Standards Bylaw,” a Draconian script that brought in an 11 p.m. curfew for kids and teenagers, massive fines for graffiti, a no-spitting rule and a ban on swearing in public.
I can only imagine the Mad Max scenario present in Taber that would bring such a law, but surely current laws present in the criminal code could have dealt with the situation there.
So did Taber earn its embarrassment? That’s a hard question to answer, but I can pretty confidently say that the attention it received by introducing the bylaw certainly wasn’t worth the hassle. In the year since Taber introduced its overreaching bylaw, only two tickets have been issued, both for fighting, according to a May 15 article in the Calgary Herald.
Council certainly isn’t too busy counting the money rolling in from enforcement to regret that decision. That’s for sure.
Kamloops is a medium-sized city that tries to straddle that small-town feeling with big-city amenities, and I think it does a pretty good job at that. But nothing screams “small town insecurity” like an overreaching bylaw, and Kamloops has already done plenty to perk up the ears of those in the city who want Kamloops to be just that – a city. Whether it’s trying to keep wine off of grocery store shelves while the province moves ahead, attempting to ban pesticides while stores keep their shelves stocked, or introducing a smoking ban but deciding not to really enforce it, council doesn’t have a clean record when it comes to shakey new rules.
The idea of controlling people’s language is so absurd that it belongs in a futuristic movie where Taco Bell qualifies as fine dining and people make mysterious use of three seashells after using the toilet. That is, it must remain fantasy. (Go see “Demolition Man” – it’s probably Stallone’s best work.)
Perhaps the man hours spent on formulating such an absurd pitch should instead be redirected towards the RCMP for more policing, something Kamloops seems to need, given the increase in certain crime rates lately.
Keep an eye on city council in the fall, and make sure you don’t keep your mouth shut if you see something you don’t like.