I have decided to write to the editor to comment on Taber’s new bylaw. As a background I will assume you have read Mr. Webster’s letter as well as Dr. Johnson’s in the March 18th edition, both of which I agree with.
I graduated from law school many years ago and have not practised in 15 years. Furthermore as I am often accused of being contradictory, I will explain I am both a card-carrying liberal, specifically a classical liberal, who enjoys exploring the moral concepts of the world through a hegelian microscope grounded in my favorite utilitarian philosopher John Locke and anchored by my confessional biblically-based, conservative Lutheran faith.
I believe that my following comments may be pertinent simply because as a young man I was convicted under the section of the Criminal Code mentioned by Dr. Johnson and some 12 years later I was a lawyer representing an individual convicted under the same section. To those that believe solely cursing or bad behaviour is a right I would caution you that what Sophie or Hans Scholl or pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Gandhi or Pastor Martin Luther King died for was not for bad behaviour. Their actions were characterized as bad behaviour by their enemies, but the crux of what they were doing was much more. Nor should you believe you are the next Lenny Bruce as the complaints of his behaviour were not from the patrons of his performances, but from prudish anti-semitic racists and unlike Mr. Bacon it was not one cheezy movie, but his life work which I can assure you of is much more famous than Mr. Bacon’s work.
When I practised law there seemed to be a lot of confusion over the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there is no absolute right, there are limitations. Even aside from the Charter, the most committed anarchist admits to some limiting factors in this life.
As a young man of 20, after a night consuming some refreshments, I and the group I was with entered into a heated discussion with two of Calgary’s finest. I, of course, seemed to be the focal point as I expounded to the officers my very limited, and dull-witted understanding of the law which the officers rightfully ignored and as they drove off one of the group, used some colourful language, I was promptly arrested.
During my trial, during which I foolishly acted as my own lawyer, one member of our group admitted to the colourful language. Even so, I was convicted, but thanks to a far-seeing judge, I was given a discharge. Some years later when I made the application after law school at the beginning of my articles to be a lawyer, I realized that without that discharge, my dream of a becoming a lawyer might have been short lived.
Take my life 12 years into the future, I was presented with one of my clients, a rather infamous miscreant of Taber in his day, being charged under the same provisions of the Criminal Code. After a review of the case law and noting the aggravating circumstances, I realized the possibility of incarceration for him and talking with Crown realized, they were intent on getting it.
The client pled guilty and was advised by the judge had there not been a prompt guilty plea, he would have imposed a much longer prison term than the month he was going to. You must understand that the disturbance was my client’s colourful use of language for a protracted time aimed at a elderly female patron of a local grocery store while in the checkout line. Tragically, he was a victim of a violent crime much later and I often wonder if his colourful use of language was the cause and if this had been a wake up call for him.
Understand that there can be freedom of expression without vulgar language and that though sometimes when accompanied by vulgar language, it is the freedom of expression not the vulgar language that is important.
There is no such thing as a free service though given with good intention there still might be consequences you will have to live with them, not the person providing the service.
There are things to fall on your sword for, just make sure they are the right ones, this bylaw is not.