By Marcia Love
In recent weeks, a lot has been said about freedom of speech.
The heated debate regarding Taber, Alberta’s controversial new Community Standards Bylaw is the big one that comes to mind.
The most interesting aspect of the bylaw to me is the part regarding swearing, which has ruffled many feathers.
I find it interesting as someone who grew up in a household where foul language never crossed anyone’s lips. And I mean never. My dad could even control himself when dealing with stubborn cattle (Yeah, that says it all right there).
So it bothers me when I’m at a public function – and even certain workplaces, where you would think people could at least try to show a little professionalism – and certain individuals feel the need to speak their mind very colourfully and loudly, with no regard or respect for those around them.
Some would argue they have the right to say what they want in a public forum – even if it means screaming obscenities. I would argue I have a right not to hear or be forced to tolerate that type of behaviour.
And so it is with the town of Taber, where opinions have been divided not only in the community itself, but across the country on whether or not the town’s bylaw is fair and warranted.
It does seem ridiculous to have a bylaw dictating what people can and can’t say, mostly because people should know how to behave in a public place.
But we’re not talking about someone who lets out a certain word when they trip on the sidewalk. From what I gather, we’re talking about the kind of people who can drop an F-bomb as a noun, verb and adjective in a sentence, loudly, in the middle of a family-friendly environment. And we’ve all been in that situation where we’re trying to carry on a conversation with someone at a reasonable volume in a public place while someone nearby has decided to be that guy. It’s rude and obnoxious.
You can call it archaic, but clearly the community has a serious problem if the town is looking into solutions like curfews and cracking down on graffiti. And what many may not realize is there are already several municipalities across Canada with similar bylaws on indecent behaviour in their books.
It’s a point of respect, and when individuals either haven’t been taught how to offer it or simply refuse to, you’re left with little choice but to establish laws demanding them to. Is it going to mean people will clean up their act – and language? Not likely. But it’s addressing a problem. And while I’m sure there won’t be too many $150 fines going into the swear jar as a result, at least law enforcement has the ability to do something should it be necessary.
On the other side of the country, I was surprised to see the MP from my old riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound in Ontario making national headlines last week for a comment he made regarding niqabs.
Conservative MP Larry Miller was sharing his opinion on the Muslim veil being worn during citizenship oath ceremonies on a local radio station, saying, “Frankly, if you’re not willing to show your face in a ceremony that you’re joining the best country in the world, then… stay the (censored for the sake of the previous topic of this column) where you came from.”
Yet another example of freedom of speech. In this case, the controversy seems to lie more in the manner Miller voiced his opinion rather than what he actually said, because a number of Canadians have backed his comments on social media.
Miller has since apologized, saying he recognized his remarks were inappropriate, but stood by his view that anyone being sworn in as a new citizen should uncover their face.