When I set up Housetops it was my intention to focus on Christianity, Prophecy, and Big Picture political news, and that is still my intent. Today, however, I would like to focus on a small, local problem that is occurring in the city in which I live, Barrie, Ontario, because I believe this is an issue that plagues all of humanity.
Early in July, 2011, my wife and I were walking our dog through one of our lake-front parks, Allandale Station park, and when we got to the end of it we kept on walking to another park, just a block away. In the second park, Minet’s Point park, we were walking through the parking lot, and right in front of a sign that says “Dogs Must be Leashed”, and another sign that says “No Dogs Allowed On Beach”, we were confronted by a bylaw enforcement officer who told us that we could be fined for having our dog in the parking lot of that park!
Please note that the pictures shown here were taken two days after my encounter with this bylaw officer, and the signs have yet to be updated!
I pointed out to the officer that we were standing in front of two signs that indicated that we were allowed to have our dog in the location where we were situated. Her response was that you can’t believe the signs that the city of Barrie puts up, but you have to go and read the bylaws before you can take your dog for a walk!
She proceeded to produce a laser printed copy of the bylaw in question.
184.108.40.206.0 No owner of a dog shall allow his dog to trespass on private property even when on a leash.
220.127.116.11.0 No person shall allow a leash to extend beyond a length of six (6) feet and such leash must be held or restrained by a competent person who can reasonably control the dog.
18.104.22.168.0 No owner of a dog shall allow his dog in any waterfront park.
Even at the entrance to the park there is no sign that dogs are not allowed. Usual practice is that when new laws are introduced, or old laws are changed, public notice is given, and a time is set when the new laws are to take effect. It is also usual practice to solicit public comment when laws are changed. I do not know if this practice was followed since I did not know the law had been changed. Surely there is some responsibility on the part of City Council to ensure that everyone in the community has the opportunity to see, and comment on, these laws before they come into effect? Who is the taxpayer, and who is City Council responsible to? Who is it who put these people into office? How many people in Barrie actually knew that the law had been changed?
Unlike in totalitarian dictatorships, in the west the principle has been that our elected representatives are responsible to the electorate. To my knowledge it is still that way.
This bylaw enforcement officer also informed me that there is an exception to the law which allows dogs to be walked on pathways in Centennial park. She did not produce any corroborating evidence to this statement, although I have since found some on the City of Barrie website:
22.214.171.124.0 Notwithstanding Section 126.96.36.199.0, the owner of a dog may lead the dog, provided it is on a leash not exceeding 6 feet in length, on any signed walking path in Heritage Park, Allandale Station Park and Centennial Park.
These bylaws are preceded by the following disclaimer, however, which effectively negates everything that follows:
The following consolidation is an electronic reproduction made available for information only. It is not an official version of the By-law. The format may be different, and plans, pictures, other graphics or text may be missing or altered.
The City of Barrie does not warrant the accuracy of this electronic version.
This consolidation cannot be distributed or used for commercial purposes. It may be used for other purposes, only if this disclaimer is repeated as well as the notice of copyright.
Official versions of all By-laws can be obtained from the City Clerk’s Office by calling (705) 739-4204.
In other words, “the bylaws which you find herein may not be current or accurate, and you must call the City Clerk’s Office if you really want to know what the Barrie Bylaws actually say”. The city is promoting confusion and avoiding responsibility, with this disclaimer, to the point that the effort ends up becoming a joke!
You can go to the official website of the City and download the Bylaws, but at the outset, you are warned that what you are reading may actually be inaccurate, or obsolete, even before you read it! Why bother?
How much effort does it take to keep a website up-to-date? I am not a full-time webmaster, yet I have often updated my own site more than once in a day. I am quite sure the city has a full-time webmaster, and they are well paid no doubt! Make a commitment to keep the website up-to-date within a 24 hour period, and you don’t have to put up disclaimers everywhere!
I would contend that, putting the City Bylaws on the City’s official website is a waste of time and money, if they are not current and official. The Bylaw in question was passed some time in 2010, and here we are a year later, and the city has not seen fit to update the signs in its parks! This is an irresponsible policy.
City signage is actually official communication from the City government to its citizens, and visitors, and should accurately reflect its bylaws. No one puts up artificial signs in our parks, or streets, that purport to be communication from the City, especially signs printed on metal backing. Pranksters don’t put a lot of money into pranks! A metal sign with the official logo of the city should be as good as gold to its readers! Furthermore, identical signs in different parks should have identical meanings.
Would a police officer give a driver a speeding ticket for going 80 km/h in a 50 km/h zone, if the posted limit was actually 80 km/h? He can’t do so until the signs are changed to reflect the new limit. So why do we allow our local governments to defy logic, and the law? I know, everyone is too busy to be bothered!
When Bylaws are enacted it should be official policy to make our signs match the law as quickly as possible, not to wait for a whole year or more! This is the whole point of a period of grace, to allow knowledge to become public, and to allow city staff the opportunity to update all forms of official communication to reflect the new reality.
As we have seen above, the disclaimers on the official City of Barrie website, effectively make the down-loadable bylaws nul and void. This is a huge problem in the western world, and Barrie is not alone. In Canada, and the United States, we have so many laws, bylaws, statutes and rules, that there is not one citizen, bylaw officer, police officer, lawyer, politician, or Judge, who knows every law in his respective nation and municipality. There are so many laws that if you take the time to read them, not only will it take your entire life, but you are guaranteed to forget them almost immediately after reading them, because of the massive information overload!
Even our Supreme Court Justices have to go and study the law before rendering a verdict. If our most learned men, and women, don’t know every nuance of the law, how are the rest of us to figure it out? The next time you see something you don’t like and you want to say “There should be a law against that”, think again before you open your mouth! Canada is full of these “do-gooders” who bind us up in a myriad of laws that make slaves of all of us! Such people are a part of the problem!
Does anyone else see this as a problem, or am I alone in this?
Dan Knezacek July 2011