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Standards bylaw drafting needs legal oversight

Posted on March 18, 2015 by Taber Times

Much has been said and written about the Community Standards Bylaw, which has been all over the North American media. At the recent “informational session” conducted by the Taber Police Service, Inspector Abela cast blame for the bad publicity received by the Town on “…the misdirected, self-interest driven, misinformed, so-called legal experts…” He also throws the local newspaper under the bus as a “source” of the uproar.

Insofar as I had agreed to a request from the Taber Times to provide my legal analysis of the obviously flawed and unconstitutional bylaw, I must assume that Inspector Abela was directing his venom in part at myself. With all due respect to my friend, Inspector Abela, such comments by him are taken in the manner in which they were given – that being as a thinly veiled attempt to deflect the blame for the obvious problems with Taber Community Standards bylaw.

Without getting into a full debate on this subject, that having been done in the North American media for the last two weeks, I would merely point out that the TPS, and Inspector Abela in particular, have no legal training, nor did apparently unbelievably anyone who was involved in the drafting of this bylaw. With all due respect, there lies the problem.

We have a law in Taber that clearly and unequivocally affects the constitutional rights of its citizens. However, and a fact which is simply beyond belief, apparently at no time did anyone in the Town or the police department ever consult anyone with the legal training required to properly evaluate it. I would respectfully suggest the simple task of referring the matter to someone with some actual legal training would have avoided this entire fiasco.

As such, it can certainly be said that blame for the bad publicity lies solely at the feet of those responsible for this bylaw, not those who have very rightly pointed out its flaws.

I would respectfully suggest that this entire fiasco would have been avoided by a simple town council statement. Had they merely indicated while they felt that the intent of the bylaw was solid and justifiable, they have heard the concerns about potential constitutional issues and as such, they are merely referring it to their legal advisors to ensure that they do not run afoul of any charter protected rights.

That simple statement would have completely diffused the entire situation and there would have been no story. However, to obstinately “double down” and dig their heels in and try to continually defend the indefensible is simply what created the viral sensation that resulted. For the Inspector to further enflame the problem by blaming the local paper and local lawyers for causing a problem that is clearly the fault of the council and administration of the TPS – is disappointing to say the least.

One can only hope that somewhere on town council there is a voice of reason and reflection who will have the ability to sway his colleagues to use some common sense and do the right thing.

One can only further hope that the only official position is not simply the angry public comments of a police officer attempting to shift blame to others for a problem that was entirely internally generated.


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