Tuesday, February 23, 2010  
   Volume 80 - Issue 8 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“We’re not punishing the good kids, we’re punishing the bad kids.”
- Councillor David Cole  
- on the curfew bylaw, which   
has now passed two readings   

 

A Fragile Lens- Nathen Gallagher
As you're no doubt aware if you've been reading the newspaper, council is expected to pass a curfew bylaw on March 2. I don't think I've offered a personal opinion on this long-coming policy yet, mostly because I'm a little conflicted about it, but this week I will try to sum up my thoughts.
On the one hand, I'm not really a fan of government infringement on personal freedoms without a very good reason, and so my first instinct is to get my back up and defend the youth of the Crowsnest Pass. I want to say, no, as a whole they don't deserve this even if a few bad apples do.
I want to say that even though a lot of communities in Canada are giving this curfew thing a try, the message behind it is draconian and insulting. "We don't trust you," it says. "We don't trust you to be out after dark and not commit some sort of crime." It is contrary to the belief that an individual is innocent until proven guilty, which is the basis of our entire justice system. A curfew simply assumes, for the sake of the public good, that everyone is guilty.
But I can't say these things, at least not without considered reservations. The problem is, I understand where this curfew bylaw is coming from, I understand what it's trying to do, and the portion of the bylaw that deals with legitimate excuses takes a lot of the edge off of any argument against it.
Simply put, it's difficult to argue that anyone under the age of 17 has any pressing reason to be outside between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. without adult supervision.
Under the bylaw that will almost certainly be passed, it's okay if a youth is over at a friend's place until midnight, so long as an adult sees them home. It's okay if a youth does some sort of job very late or very early on the weekend or in the summer and has to get to or from it.
What's not okay, says the bylaw, is if a person under the age of 17 is out and about in the town without an adult present between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. As far as nuts go, that is a tough one to crack.
But what about personal freedoms? They are clearly being restricted. The problem is that the restriction of personal freedoms for people under the age of 18 is not only a part of our society, it's practically encouraged.
 
You see, parents and guardians are, in fact, responsible for their children, and in exchange for that responsibility they have the ability, within reason, to enforce rules upon them. The system wouldn't work otherwise.
Children are not allowed to vote. They can't drink, they can't smoke, they can't drive until they're 16. They can't watch R-rated movies by themselves, they can't live on their own, and they generally aren't even judged under the same rules when they break the law.
Is this always fair in every case? Of course not –– only gravity is fair in every case. But until we have a way to determine the exact mental capabilities and state of mind of every person in the world, society has determined that it's best to simply restrict some things based on age. Can you blame society for that? Even some adults can't deal with those things I listed above; you can't blame society for saying children shouldn't.
The good news for young people struggling thus under society's yoke is that there is a foolproof way to beat the system –– patience. You'll be old before you know it, so try not to be in too much of a hurry.
(The bad news is that you'll still be charged more by car insurance companies as a young adult, even if you've done nothing wrong, simply because your age group is more likely to do things wrong. This is actually a decent analogy for the curfew bylaw.)
So in the end, yes, if you are under 17 then your right to go out by yourself late at night for no reason is being restricted. In reality, I don't think this will have much effect on the average Crowsnest Pass youth. It may put a cramp on a few social lives in the summer, but the solution is simply to go to someone's home, where the curfew does not apply, instead of hanging out outside.
It remains to be seen what this will do for vandalism occurrences in the Pass. Perhaps they will go down. Perhaps the people doing these things are either a) already older than the curfew age or b) uncaring and unlikely to be caught. Perhaps it's simply a case of politicians doing something to make people feel better. Perhaps the application of a few fines to some parents will ensure they start to care where their kids are at night.
Time, as always, will tell. For now, I don't fault council for attempting these measures.
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