Monday, March 9, 2015

No shoes, no shirt, no swimming: Langley City's Parks Bylaw

At the last City of Langley Council meeting, Council adopted an update to its Parks and Public Facilities Bylaw. Under the old bylaw, a person could be fined and/or imprisoned, after going through the courts, for breaking the bylaw. Under the new bylaw, the City added the ability to ban someone from a park or public facility for a fixed period of time. This seems more reasonable, and less costly.

When I was looking over the new bylaws, I noticed that it says:

No person shall:
(i) act in a disorderly, dangerous or offensive manner in a park or public facility;
(ii) enter or remain at a public facility without being attired with shoes and a shirt;

Now these rules were in the previous bylaw, and the City is actually allowed to selectively enforce bylaws, but it did get me thinking.

For one, you could only use the water park at Douglas Park or the Al Anderson Pool if you were wearing shoes and a shirt. That would make for an unpleasant time for many people. Sun tanning or even playing a “shirts vs. skins” game would also technically be against the bylaw. I wouldn’t be surprised if the no shirt/shoes thing was put into place back in the day to prevent hippies in parks.

Another thing that I question is why the City uses the term “offensive”. The City of Langley might call something offensive, but in doing so might end up violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For something to be offensive, it has to pass the following test:

1. That, by its nature, the conduct at issue causes harm or presents a significant risk of harm to individuals or society in a way that undermines or threatens to undermine a value reflected in and thus formally endorsed through the Constitution or similar fundamental laws by, for example:
(a) confronting members of the public with conduct that significantly interferes with their autonomy and liberty; or
(b) predisposing others to anti-social behaviour; or
(c) physically or psychologically harming persons involved in the conduct, and
2. That the harm or risk of harm is of a degree that is incompatible with the proper functioning of society.

It seems that it would be very trick for City Council, bylaw officers, or the parks department to determine what is offensive.

As I noted earlier, these items have been on the books for some time, but I have to wonder why these two items were included in the latest update to the bylaw.


Dave Hall said...

Did you give similar scrutiny to "dangerous" or "disorderly"?? Come on Nathan, people have voiced concerns about their feelings of safety and security and the CIty has simply tried to address these with a tightening of provisions that give staff some teeth to deal with beligerent repeat offenders.Surely you wouldn't want the City to simply allow the continued intimidation of both staff and the public. Once again the key is "discretionary" (not silly application as in your examples).

Nathan Pachal said...

Calling things obscene has been be used to repress free speak and expression in the past, that why I get a little alarmed.

Also, how is having no shirt and no shoes a safety issue for the City and other park users?

Anonymous said...

Dave, Nathan has you here. Not to mention that 'discretionary' does not mean fair. It's closer to discriminatory than anything to do with safety.