The great Canadian punishment culture


I hope I’m not the only person who finds it odd that Skytrain security officers rarely check for proof of transit fare at the gate. The lack of security presently displayed at Skytrain stations is so abysmal that it undoubtedly entices many transit-goers to attempt to hitch a ride for free. Yet, you never know when a security guard could spring through those sliding skytrain doors, catching you off-guard with a fare inspection. Such prospects shroud me with unease, and convince me to keep my UPass safely tucked inside my wallet at all times.

I then realize, in frustration, that the company has established these strict rules about transit fare, yet makes them far too easy to break. These regulatory ideologies work to entrap the public, rather than to promote upholding the law in a positive manner. The Skytrain’s harsh regulations are merely a fragment in a Canadian society that seems obsessed with strict rules and easy punishment.

Am I wrong in claiming that Canada is a nation that favours public penalty? It seems like such an ironic statement given that our country boasts a progressive nature. However, the reality seems to be that Canada is a nation in love with rules — rules that permeate every crevice of Canadian life, yet ultimately try to set Canadians up for failure.

When it comes to municipal law, our nation is still very much chained to tradition.

If you still don’t understand what I mean, consider the fact that police officers will arrest people for urinating on public streets, yet there are very few public restrooms available outside of shops and restaurants. How about the idea that it is legal to sell sex to people, but illegal to purchase it? And we mustn’t forget the helmet situation — if I’m riding my bike as fast as I walk, shouldn’t I also be wearing a helmet when I walk? What if I fall and hit my head while on foot?

The unfortunate reality is that, while it’s oftentimes easy to break these laws, Canadians are subject to heavy penalties when caught doing so. Our harsh rules starkly contrast with many European countries, such as Germany and Sweden, where it is legal to drink alcohol wherever one chooses, and to take a leak in one of many public restrooms.

Apart from being open-minded and progressive with their laws, these countries provide a plethora of opportunities to avoid breaking them — an approach that I feel contributes immensely to a society’s well-being.

Currently, crime is a big issue on our government’s political agenda. I’d be able to instantly pay off my student loans if I had a dollar for every time I heard that “Harper is cracking down on corruption.” Rules and punishment are hot topics in this country, however archaic and unfair these notions may be.

It may be a stretch to proclaim that Canadian laws and cultural norms should be changed immediately, but we should start to think about the ways our culture seems to value punishment over prosperity.

Is Canada progressive? In a multitude of respects, yes. But when it comes to law, especially municipal, our nation is still very much chained to tradition, and this is a notion that is seriously worth public consideration.

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