Alberta town’s harsh bans reminiscent of ‘Footloose’

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You can still dance — for now — but Taber, Alta. has passed harsh new behaviour bylaws that essentially turn it into the town from Footloose.

At a recent meeting, town council voted overwhelmingly to travel back in time by passing Community Standards Bylaw 4-2015, which bans swearing and spitting, imposes a curfew on minors and otherwise punishes all sorts of behaviour your grandparents scolded you about.

“I’m in support,” Mayor Henk De Vlieger (a.k.a. Grampa Abraham Simpson) told The Taber Times. “I’m not saying this thing is perfect, but I think we should give it a chance and try it out, and let the police work with it.”

That of course raises the question of exactly when the timing was perfect, and the answer might be sometime pre-Confederation.

Regardless, Taber is now one the road to recovery from the violent, spit-soaked, obscenity-laden terror it once was and becomes a Bowdlerized Shangri-la. Among the new rules and fines created in the bylaw:

  • Spitting in a public place: $75
  • Yelling, screaming or swearing: $150
  • Placing graffiti on property: $2,500
  • Parents allowing minors out during curfew (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.): $100
  • Urinating/depositing human waste in public (why wasn’t this banned before?): $250

Fines increase for second and third offences. Swearing fines go as high as $500, whereas graffiti can garner a whopping $7,500 penalty.

Fun aside, the bylaw is catching heat for allowing cops to break up assemblies of three or more people, which has some critics calling it unconstitutional.

"Constitutionally this is egregious. That's the only way to say it," University of Calgary political science instructor Lisa Lambert told CBC News. "Under the Charter of Rights we have the freedom to speak, the freedom to assemble, we have freedom of religion. And all of these freedoms are under attack when bylaws like this are put in place.

“Little towns get bad names because of this kind of nonsense,” she added. “This is so embarrassing.”

Perhaps I’m being too hard on poor Taber. After all, spitting laws aren’t so uncommon. It’s banned in Calgary and even in a sophisticated city like Singapore, which is also renowned for its laws against gum-chewing or urinating in elevators. In Singapore, spitting can cost you around $500 Singapore dollars (about CDN$450). Littering can cost you more than $1,000. Graffiti? That gets you caned.

Taber vandals get off pretty lucky by comparison.

On a more serious note, next month marks the 16th anniversary of a deadly high-school shooting in Taber that garnered international attention, as it came just after the horrific Columbine shootings in the U.S.

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