A Child’s Lemonade Stand is not a Public Nuisance

You do not have to be a municipal councillor long to realize there’s a small percentage of residents that have no qualms about wreaking havoc on the lives of others.  They are staggeringly self-centred, entitled and arrogant.  Just when you think you have seen it all, you are proven wrong.

As a local government, whenever we are considering introducing a new by-law to address the impact of the few on the many, it is right to be cautious.

  • Will it enable us make a difference for those we are trying to help?
  • Might there be unintended consequences?
  • Might it be abused for the wrong purpose – by a member of the public or a city official?
  • Are there enough check and balances in the system as a whole to recognize abuse when it happens and appropriately deal with it?

These are some of the questions that members of Council will need to consider tonight as they deliberate on the proposed Nuisance By-law.

Some residents feel it goes too far while for others it does not go far enough.  The input has been thought-provoking.

I am not convinced that suggesting the proposed by-law will prohibit a child from setting up a lemonade stand is that helpful although perhaps it is useful in making a point.

A child’s lemonade stand is not a public nuisance.

Sure. Where and how they set it up might cause a safety concern for them or others. But, that can be addressed with common-sense and without a Public Nuisance By-law.

If a resident calls the City to complain about a lemonade stand and a By-law Enforcement Officer shuts it down then we have bigger problems in our community than a Public Nuisance By-law.

Here is another example to press the point.  It has been suggested that the clause prohibiting firearms on City property will prevent a hunter “from transporting their hunting rifle or other hunting instruments to permitted hunting areas in specified seasons”.  The person argues that roads are City property.

I will say it again. This act is not a public nuisance. Would anyone even notice?

Public nuisance – these two words are important in evaluating this by-law.

The community was clear. They did not want to see the words “public protests” or “public rallies” in the same sentence as “public nuisance”. So those sections are gone. I hope this would be the case in every Canadian city. Perhaps it isn’t, looking at Montreal.

There is still a concern that the proposed By-law could discourage “public protests” or “public rallies”.   The two clauses causing the most concern are:

While on City Land, a person shall, unless pursuant to an exemption pursuant to this by-law:

  • Obstruct any sidewalk, designated trail or pathway
  • Place, install or erect any temporary or permanent structure, including any tent or booth

Are we simply not distinguishing participation in a march or rally from an act of non-violent civil disobedience? Participating in an act of non-violent civil disobedience (like a road blockade) is a choice – a choice with potential implications.  Meaning, you might get arrested – with or without a Public Nuisance By-law.  Or is it more than this?  Will these clauses work to discourage participation in marches and rallies or be used to this end?

The Public Nuisance By-law enables a community response to certain anti-social behaviours that lies somewhere between “doing nothing and using a hammer” as colleague recently noted.

A couple of years ago, an individual emptied all the waste containers on my street into the road. Taking this fool through the judicial system would have been a waste of time and money and likely would not have brought the justice my street was seeking that early morning.  So personally, I like this behaviour being identified as a public nuisance and fined accordingly. For the guy who ripped the side-view mirrors off every car on the street a few months later? Perhaps being put in front of a judge is still appropriate.

So Mr. Milner, yes you do have a right to live in your neighbourhood “without constant disruption at all hours of the day by inconsiderate individuals who have no respect”.

If approved tonight, a review of the Public Nuisance By-law in one year, as has been proposed by Committee is a good idea to see if it has indeed helped to ensure Mr. Milner’s right and has not resulted in any unintended consequences or unduly impinged on the rights of the majority of residents who are not a “public nuisance”.

 

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One Comment on “A Child’s Lemonade Stand is not a Public Nuisance”

  1. Bill Hulet Says:

    I think some of the people who have expressed fears that this law would restrict protests have missed the point that classic civil disobedience invites arrest. Gandhi repeatedly declared that he should be arrested in order to make the case that a given law was unjust. If people involved in a protest do not think that the issue is important enough to be arrested for, then perhaps it isn’t all that important in the first place. I think that the public nuisance law is important to make sure that protest doesn’t become a trivial act that means very little.

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