Canadian Town Swears Off Curse Words with $150 Fines

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Canadian town Taber will fine residents who swear, spit or yell in public. And New Yorkers thought the MTA's subway etiquette campaign was invasive ...
Taber, a town in Alberta, Canada, will fine residents who swear, spit or yell in public. And New Yorkers thought the MTA’s subway etiquette campaign was invasive …

A Canadian town has started cracking down on raucous behavior by handing out fines to those who spit, yell or swear in public.

A bylaw was recently passed in the Alberta town of Taber — population 8,100 — that seeks to curb bad manners with a $75 fine for spitting on sidewalks and fines of up to $150 for spitting or swearing in a public place, the Canadian Press reports.

The law was passed in order to “regulate and prohibit certain activities” that would “prevent and compel the abatement of noise, nuisances, graffiti and public disturbances.” Taber also has “quiet hours” between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. daily.

Taber has something of a reputation for passing unusual ordinances. Police Chief Alf Rudd has taken the new bylaw in stride, telling the Canadian Press that his department has managed to bring “crime and insurrection … to a standstill.”

“I see people are having fun with it and I can appreciate that,” Rudd said after viewing more than 50,000 tweets on the subject. “But if they’re thinking the Taber Police Service has the capacity to do the type of enforcement that’s being talked about, that’s not going to be happening.”

Even if the town was able to enforce the law, it likely wouldn’t hold up in court, according to legal experts.

“If I’m walking down the street heading to a store and quietly swear to the person beside me, I could be caught by the bylaw,” law expert Linda McKay-Panos said. “I think you could argue swearing is pretty close to the core of what we want to protect because it’s either self-fulfilling speech or it’s personal expression of an opinion. That is very closely guarded under the (Canadian) Constitution.”

Rudd said the bylaw wasn’t intended to curb constitutionally protected speech, but rather allows officers to deal with individuals who make momentary lapses in judgment akin to causing a public disturbance.

“The application of this law will be done with discretion, by experienced trained officers who are trusted in the community,” he said. “If someone finds themselves charged under this section, I would guess it would be pretty extenuating circumstances.”

Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine

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