Opinion

COLUMN: We’ve had enough unlawful activity

If the sun is setting on your workout, you best get ready to cool down and leave, because being in a park after dark is in violation of Surrey Bylaw no. 13480. - File photo
If the sun is setting on your workout, you best get ready to cool down and leave, because being in a park after dark is in violation of Surrey Bylaw no. 13480.
— image credit: File photo

I can almost hear our civic leaders discussing how easily they can protect us from ourselves, when it comes to Surrey parks.

As we reported Tuesday, RCMP and city bylaw officers are in mid-crackdown on breaches of civic bylaws that restrict how we may use our parks.

Our report led off by highlighting the daylight-only use of city parks (the breach of which is punishable by a $200 fine).

In case that last line is confusing, perhaps I should describe it more accurately as from sunrise to sunset.

Or, even more precisely, as Bylaw 13480 states: “No person shall enter, occupy or remain within a park between dusk of one day and dawn of the immediately following day.”

See, we’re protected – easily AND concisely.

After all, our leaders must be thinking, what possible use could a taxpayer have for entering, occupying or remaining in a park after dark?

Sure, one could argue that, under their rule, those of us who enjoy midnight strolls are out of luck; as are those who do shift work, and those who cut through parks at odd hours as part of their daily commutes.

And, of course, there are those who would argue that such public freedoms are exactly what our veterans fought for over the years.

But I think they’re in the minority now.

As is our Canadian way, we politely acquiesce that public order must come first.

And, seriously, are our officers really expected to wait for the criminal element to show up before they bust them?

Instead, as our leaders have done, why not create laws that toss a wider net, busting bylaw breakers, as well as building up the city coffers as a nice side benefit? (Prior to this summer’s blitz, an estimated $70,000 a year was collected in parks-related fines).

Another solution would be to patrol problem parks regularly and to respond to citizens’ complaints, should there be any serious threat to public safety.

But then, that isn’t the easy, concise solution, is it?

I’ll admit, cherry-picking one aspect of the parks bylaw is hardly fair (even if cherry-picking is not unlawful, yet). There were other no-nos that our report pointed out, such as flying motorized model airplanes and feeding fish and allowing your pet to swim – all punishable by civic fines.

But even with a meticulously worded slate of bylaws, these rules unto themselves hardly guarantee my safety.

Perhaps there are others that will help me sleep well – day or night.

For starters, why is just park use being singled out for nighttime bans? Why not other areas, such as roadways and sidewalks?

What business do any of us really have on the public thoroughfares anyway, after a certain hour?

More senior levels of government than this have certainly restricted our freedoms in recent years in the name of safety – freedoms of speech and privacy come immediately to mind.

So why shouldn’t our democratically elected members of council follow suit and restrict our movement at the most basic level?

Unlike south of our borders, where they fight infringements on what they consider American rights, we in the land of the north are much more prone to lying prone, while our leaders make new rules that make it easier to govern us.

And I wonder whether Surrey residents will take this latest crackdown lying down as well.

After all, so long as we get to spend our off-hours in one of the most beautiful places on the planet (during daylight, of course), we have so little we can complain about.

Lance Peverley is editor of the Peace Arch News.

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