Winnipeg to ban singing on the bus, and other odd Canadian laws

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew
Singing is now a no-no on Winnipeg Transit buses and could land you a $100 fine.

If you've heard of the recently-introduced bylaw that makes singing on Winnipeg buses a fineable offense, you likely either live in the Manitoba capital or spotted it posted to social media alongside a teasing comment or humourous aside.

For those unfamiliar, a new transit bylaw has listed singing as "inappropriate conduct" that could get you thrown off the bus or fined $100. CBC News reports the bylaw will need to pass a final vote at city council before becoming one of Canada's oddest laws.

I have a wealth of experience with Winnipeg's transit system and I can tell you, the experience rarely consists of anything worth singing about, save perhaps the blues.

But if we are going to tease Winnipeg for its odd law, then turnabout is fair play. Because nearly every city has a head-scratching policy or two.

Mississauga, Ont., also garnered recent headlines after passing a bizarre bylaw that made clotheslines illegal. The Toronto Star reports that the rule was enacted because in response to a specific complaint about an elaborate series of clotheslines criss-crossing a particular backyard.

Turns out, bylaws restricting clotheslines aren't that rare. There was actually a province-wide ban in effect until 2008, when it was lifted as part of the Ontario’s "green" movement.

Then again, bylaws against singing and other noise distractions aren’t unheard of either. Kingston, Ont., has a rule prohibiting "yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling, singing or the playing of musical instruments" between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. in most areas of town.

Petrolia, Ont., also has a noise bylaw that prohibits whistling and singing at any time. A city employee confirmed this to Yahoo Canada News, though she didn't sound too surprised by the line of questioning.

Indeed, odd rules about how one should or shouldn’t act at the heart of many of Canada’s odd rules. Calgary's "Public Behaviour Bylaw" includes a bevy of eye-catching declarations.

For example, it is illegal to stand on any "table, bench, planter or sculpture" in a public place. It's illegal to urinate (sure) or defecate (yech) in public, but also against the law to spit in public, or in front of other people while on private property.

You have to wonder how many of those laws have been broken during the Calgary Stampede.

In Edmonton, the City of Champions, there are notably strict rules about refrigerators... and pigeons.

For example, per Edmonton bylaws:

A person shall not place, cause or permit to be placed a refrigerator, freezer or other similar appliance on land they own or occupy unless effective measures have been taken to prevent the opening and closing of the appliance.

You can get around this concern by removing the door, locking the appliance or simply wrapping it in material so a trouble-making passerby can't start causing trouble.

And according to Edmonton's animal licencing and control bylaws, no one is allowed to keep pigeons as a pet without licence. And those who have licences are limited to 75 total birds.

Odd bylaws are often antiquated notions left over and forgotten from bygone eras, which can make them somewhat difficult to confirm.

No one in Quenelle, B.C., was able to say whether or not it was illegal to exercise in a manner that frightened a horse – a popular tale among those who enjoy swapping anecdotes about odd laws.

Tanya Turner, the city’s development services manager, said it was possible that was once a law, but she has never heard of it. “Sometimes we have bylaws that we haven’t been updated for some time that could technically be enforced, but…” Turner skeptically ventured, when asked by Yahoo Canada News.

York Regional Police recently shared a collection of odd Canadian laws with followers of their Twitter account, a delightful collection that included, “You can’t drag a dead horse down Yonge Street (in Toronto) on a Sunday.

Other apparent illegalities, as shared by York Police, include:

  • Challenging someone to a duel
  • Tipping cows
  • Fraudulently pretending to practice witchcraft
  • Publicly remove bandages.

There are scores of other oddities that have been difficult to confirm. The Prince Edward Island community of Souris is said to have once limited the allowable height of snow men. Eating ice cream was once believed to be illegal along Ottawa’s Bank Street (at least on Sunday) and in Beaconsfield, Que., is was once apparently illegal to have more than two colours of paint on your house. None of these could be corroborated, unfortunately.

There is one more odd law that can be confirmed. In fact, it apparently requires an entire section in Nova Scotia’s set of law. The section is entitled “An Act to Prohibit the Display or Sale of Artificially Coloured Living Chickens.”

The Act reads: “Every person who displays, sells, barters, gives or offers to sell, barter or give a living chicken under two months of age that has been dyed, coloured or otherwise treated so as to impart to it an artificial colour is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars or to imprisonment for not more than thirty days or to both.”

Suddenly, the need for a law against singing on Winnipeg buses doesn’t seem so strange.