Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MOUNTAINS AND MOLEHILLS


            Mom and Dad met and were married in Saskatchewan but soon followed Mom’s parents to Lethbridge, Alberta, where they resided for the first twenty-three years of their marriage. In fact, eight out of Mom and Dad’s nine children were born in Lethbridge. My sister Judy was the only one of their children that wasn’t born there. She was born in Taber, Alberta, which is about 30 miles, or 50 kms, east of Lethbridge, and she lives there still, when she’s not wintering in Arizona, that is.

            She and her first husband, along with their two sons, moved to Taber in the late 1960’s and Judy has resided there ever since. Back in the day it was common practice for the younger Hubbard siblings to spend some of their summer vacation time with their older siblings so my older brother, Gordie, and my younger sister, Shelly, and I got to spend a lot of time visiting Judy’s family in Taber over the years.

            Taber’s a town of about eight thousand residents and it’s a very nice place. I always liked visiting Taber. Still do. It’s famous for its Taber Corn and the Roger’s Sugar plant and the summers are hot and dry, just the way I like them. I spent more than a few of those hot summer days with my nephews cooling off in the irrigation canals that are everywhere in the fields which produce that world famous corn, as well as the sugar beet, vegetable, cereal and oil seed crops.

            The town is located in Alberta so of course the oil industry factors large in the community and there are many thriving cattle enterprises in the area, too. The town is large enough for someone to find trouble easily and small enough so everyone will know who the trouble makers are, usually, but I wouldn’t say that it’s morally any better or worse than other communities of its size and demographic.

            Taber recently fell under the scrutiny of the national and international “24-7-365 News, News, News…All The Time News” industry, who are under immense pressure to find some new bone to chew on and this time Taber was their bone.

            You see, in a case of good intentions gone viral, the Town of Taber’s council passed a Municipal Bylaw which, according to its website would: “adopt a Community Standards Bylaw that is intended to consolidate existing municipal regulations and allow enforcement under a municipal bylaw rather than the Criminal Code.”  

            The Bylaw was intended to be a “common sense” approach giving the police and bylaw officials the ability to assess fines instead of making arrests or laying charges under the Criminal Code. Police officers would be able to issue a bylaw ticket for minor offences which would not clog up the provincial courts. Many of the infractions were already enacted in other bylaws and were simply consolidated. A side benefit would be that the fines would be paid to the Town of Taber and not paid into provincial coffers.

            But the news and social media, as per their wont, jumped on one or two sentences from the volumes of bylaws and stated that the Town of Taber had passed a bylaw that “bans public swearing, yelling and spitting”, (and only that), hinting strongly that the bylaws were infringing on Canadian Charter rights and made the town sound like the fictional dance-banning community of Bomont in the 1984 movie Footloose. The media storm was, and is, ridiculous. I’m pretty sure that if you dusted off any community’s bylaws you’d find similar laws and regulations.

Here are a few examples of outdated or silly laws and bylaws that a person could still be prosecuted for. In Windsor, ON. “you are not allowed to play a flute, recorder or mouth organ without a permit in public parks.” Or, in Quesnel, British Columbia, “you must not exercise in a manner that frightens a horse - without permission.” And there’s still a law on the British Columbia books that states “if you’re a bankrupt drunk who gets thrown in jail, the law requires the jailer to bring you a bottle of beer on demand.” Trust me, there are dozens more.

Upon closer scrutiny I don’t think that the Town of Taber’s Council were jack-boot-wearing-fascists infringing on their residents rights rather than they were just some concerned citizens trying to do some cleaning up of their old books and streamline some bylaws and they got caught up in a media frenzy. Tabor was this week’s “is the dress blue and black or white and gold”? Next week’s media target will be something new.

“Headlines, in a way, are what mislead you because bad news is a headline, and gradual improvement is not.”-Bill Gates (1955-).

 

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