Taber, Alta., outlaws bad public behaviour with fines for swearing, yelling

Daily Brew
Taber, Alta., outlaws bad public behaviour with fines for swearing, yelling
A sign welcomes visitors to Taber, Alta. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

Teenagers in the small town of Taber, Alta., will have to think twice before their next act of public mischief thanks to a new bylaw that outlaws what city council deems to be bad behaviour.

The new "Community Standards Bylaw" was drafted in partnership with local police and has effectively outlawed swearing and yelling, given police the power to break up public meetings between adults in groups of three or more, and enforced an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for minors.

Those under the age of 18 cannot be in public without a parent or guardian during the curfew and those who are caught doing so will be handing over a $100 fine after being brought home by police. Exceptions will only be given to those travelling by "motor vehicle from one point to another without detour" and to those acting in the interests of an employer or voluntary organization.

Other fines include $75 for a first offence of spitting on property that you don't own and $150 for being caught yelling or swearing. The largest fine for a first offence — $2,500 — will be handed down to those caught tagging any property with graffiti.

Taber Mayor Henk De Vlieger voted in favour of the new bylaw — which passed by a vote of 6-1 — and told the Taber Times that it needs to be tried out before any adjustments are made. 

"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," De Vlieger said.

Councillors Jack Brewin and Randy Sparks are also both in favour of the bylaw, agreeing that it was a "well-written" and "solid" document.

Councillor Joe Strojwas was the only person to vote against the bylaw's passing. Strojwas was hesitant about the high fines and how teenagers would be able to pay them.

“I look at 7.1, placing graffiti on property, and the first offence is a $2,500 fine," Strojwas was quoted as saying. "Generally, graffiti is done by 12 or 13 year old kids, do I gather if they get caught doing that they get a $2,500 fine? Do their parents have to pay that?"

Concerns expressed about the bylaw are not exclusive to its fines. Lisa Lambert, a PhD candidate and instructor in political science at the University of Calgary, told Metro that the bylaw could be a violation of human rights because "there's just no way" the it would pass a Charter challenge.

It's actions like this, Lambert said, that give small-towns a negative image.

“Little towns get bad names because of this kind of nonsense," Lambert said. “This is so embarrassing.”

If nothing else, the proposal has generated a couple good jokes on Twitter:

Photo via The Canadian Press