I am writing in response to the column by Doug Carle posted on tabertimes.com on March 11 in which Mr. Carle gives a scathing review of the new bylaw.
Mr. Carle calls it “the worst piece of legislation (he has) had the misfortune of reviewing.” His criticism focuses on two major areas. The first to which he takes vigorous offence is that the bylaw is vague and doesn’t spell out definitions for such things as “swearing” and “yelling,” leaving the interpretation of such to the police whom he terms the “military arm” of the government.
I would ask Mr. Carle if he has ever read the Criminal Code of Canada? Section 175.1a(i) states that “every one who not being in a dwelling-house, causes a disturbance in or near a public place by fighting, screaming, shouting, swearing, singing or using insulting or obscene language, is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.” I see no definitions for these terms in the code, so I guess it is up to the “military arm” of the government to define them.
Using Mr. Carle’s criteria, are we to understand that the Criminal Code is also “ludicrous” and a “horrible piece of legislation”?
The second area Mr. Carle denounces is that which deals with unlawful assembly. He states that such legislation takes away our fundamental charter rights, and reverts to the issue of police determining what constitutes an unlawful assembly. The Criminal Code states in section 63.1: “An unlawful assembly is an assembly of three or more persons who, with intent to carry out any common purpose, assemble in such a manner or so conduct themselves when they are assembled as to cause persons in the neighbourhood of the assembly to fear, on reasonable grounds, that they will disturb the peace tumultuously”.
Again it is left to the police to determine on “reasonable grounds” whether an assembly may become unlawful. Mr. Carle seems to think that this is a horrible thing. In fact, he states that the purpose of the Charter is to protect us from the police and their use of discretion.
I find it hard to understand how a professional versed in the law can completely lambaste a piece of legislation and totally ignore the parallels to our very own Criminal Code. I also find it hard to understand the very negative undertones towards police and the distrust in their ability to use good judgment in the enforcement of the law.
I, for one, applaud our mayor and town council for trying to enact legislation to make Taber a safer and more peaceful place. This new bylaw is not perfect – I do not suppose there is such a thing as a perfect piece of legislation – but it is not deserving of Mr. Carle’s utter disdain any more than is the Criminal Code of Canada. There is no way every term under the law can be defined such that it does not still require the execution of discretion on the part of the police, and I trust them to, as they always have in my experience, do their best to properly use that discretion at all times.
DR. TYLER JOHNSON