Beware of Zombies

I have criminals for friends.
The beautiful one? Criminal. The runner? Also a criminal. Silver fox? Yup. The redhead? Obviously. The baby-faced two-year-old? Not a criminal, yet. But he probably will be one day.

Sitting around on a Friday evening, I sneakily engage my otherwise well-behaved friends in a game of “You’re a Criminal”. Here is how I play: I toss-out activities into a conversation my friends thought were 100% legit. My naive friends admit participation. Bam! I reveal that they are criminals. 

Feeling superior to my poor felonious friends? Before you begin judgment, let me contextualize my friends’ illicit behaviour. You can be convicted for over 500 different crimes in Canada. Chances are, you cannot name all 500+ crimes, let alone avoid committing one! Still not convinced? Let us play, “You’re a Criminal” together now. This challenge has two categories.

CATEGORY 1: ZOMBIE LAWS

In the spirit of Halloween, how many of you have broken a “Zombie Law”? We use Zombie Laws to describe offences that are largely unknown to the public, no longer prosecuted, but still technically crimes. Put your zombie arms straight out for each of you little lawbreakers who have: 

• Water-skied without a spotter (up to 6 months jail and a 1 year driving prohibition)

• Challenged someone to a duel (up to 2 years jail)

• Pretended to practice witchcraft (up to 6 months jail)

(If you’re wondering: water skiing, duelling and practicing ‘real’ witchcraft are all not criminal offences).

If you’ve managed to dodge the zombie law bullet, this next set of laws will surely break your law-abiding bubbles. Worse: committing these offences will more likely result in criminal charges against you. 

CATEGORY TWO: DRINKING OFFENCES

You probably already knew and avoided many of these offences. You know that drunk driving is a crime. You know you cannot drive a car (a) with too much booze in your system and/or (b) when the booze you drank makes you a bad driver. If these basic impaired driving laws caught you by surprise, please re-take driver’s ed…. sober. Driving a motorboat, snowmobile, or E-bike drunk are also criminal offences. Surprised? Now you know. Keep these offences in mind when you discuss how to get home after the Boxing Day Bash.  

Now for offences that will really rock the boat. You can be charged with drunk driving of a “vessel” (a boat) even if the boat does not use a motor! As the laws now stand, driving any kind of boat/vessel drunk could lead to an impaired driving offence. For my final win in the “You’re a Criminal” game, let us wade through all of the crimes you have committed. All hands on deck to those who have:

• paddled a canoe drunk

• stand-up paddled drunk

• oared a raft drunk

• paddleboated drunk

• sat on a pool noodle drunk

As our cherry-on-top of these mind-blowers, note that cycling (even Todd Yourth’s super fast road bike) drunk on land is not a criminal offence. You can be fined under other, non-criminal laws.

Committing any impaired/drunk driving criminal offense is no laughing matter. The sentence for any of these bad lads includes: a criminal record, a minimum $1000 fine, a lengthy driving prohibition and a very real risk of jail. Yup. S!&$ just got serious.

To be fair, the Pembroke Court House does not have a backlog of drunk noodler trials. I have no idea how often impaired motor-less water offences are prosecuted in Canada. But they could be. You could be convicted. You could be sentenced.

The Trudeau government, in one of the least controversial political moves ever, has announced they are going to get rid of Zombie Laws. The State will go from not prosecuting pretend witchcraft to continuing to not prosecute pretend witchcraft. Good news for grade six sleepover participants everywhere! 

Here’s the rub. The government had the opportunity to finally put the paddling-while-drunk issue to rest. While they were removing the Zombie Laws, the government proposed changes to drunk driving laws. With these changes, you could only be convicted of drunk driving a boat if it had a motor. Drunk canoeing could still be dealt with by way of fines (like cycling) but it would not bring with it the potential to ruin your career, stop you from travelling or send you to jail.

Unfortunately, to look tough on crime, the government ditched the proposed changes. Drunk paddling is BACK IN as an offence. This is crazy. We must not criminalize people for being idiots, so long as they are not hurting anyone else. We should not spend costly tax dollars prosecuting drunk paddlers, noodlers and SUP’ers. 

How are some of the best people we know (yourself included) unknowingly unindicted criminals? The answer lies in bad laws that stay on the books. Bad laws are made as reactions to isolated events. When a lady was bamboozled by a fortune teller, a law was made forbidding fake witchcraft. Poorly-worded laws stay on the books because changing them is inconvenient. No politician wishes to be seen as soft on drunk driving of any kind – even drunk paddling. When we enact law based on emotion and political leaning rather than necessity and reason, we are left with laws that are regularly broken.

While “You’re a Criminal” is a fun cocktail game, we need to keep in mind that the consequences of breaking even silly laws are life-altering. We need to be critical of the limits we put on our freedoms and ensure that the laws we make are fair, reasonable, and absolutely necessary to protect the public from real criminal activity. If we want to ensure people take the law seriously, the laws we have must also be serious.

Until then, I will tell my little group of bandits to stop challenging one another to drunken pool noodle duels. Unless, of course, one reads my palm so I can bet on the winner.

 **This column is written for entertainment purposes exclusively. It does not provide nor can it be relied upon as legal advice of any kind and is not intended to create a solicitor-client relationship. **

 

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#YouToo

I know over 50 men who have sexually assaulted or harassed women. None of whom are outing themselves on Facebook in the #MeToo campaign.

#MeToo took a large, collective step against sexualized violence (assault, harassment, threats and intimidation). Women used significant courage to “out” themselves as victims of sexualized violence on public, unprotected Facebook. The step was in the wrong direction. The #MeToo campaign sought to raise awareness. We are already aware.

Sexualized violence  is an ongoing part of most women’s lives. Even the biggest sexist is the first to denounce perverts, pedos or rapists that might try and screw “his” wife, daughter or mother. We do not need a gimmick, a meme or a hashtag to prove that women everywhere have endured or are at a very high risk of enduring sexualized violence. We have come to accept it – to expect it.

This.

Is.

The.

Problem.

Growing-up, girls fully expect to eventually “be a victim” of sexual violence in some way. We will be judged on our ability to prevent being raped and our ability to cope with however we are sexually violated.

Girls are taught: do not trust men, do not wear things that might persuade a male to rape you, beware of male university students who victimize girls at parties or “spring break”. Take and wear rape whistles as a flimsy sort of protection. We are told not to meet with men after hours alone in the office, to avoid “boys’ club” discussions where men joke about sexual harassment and assault (unless, of course, we can “handle it”). The males we are taught to fear are the students at the school, the men in our community, the men we might work with.

The males are warned differently. You might be accused of sexual assault, so be careful. Not you might be a sexual predator. You might need to defend yourself against these allegations. Not you might need to check yourself to make sure you are not being sexually assaultive.

The public outcry about Weinstein was not that actresses were sexually assaulted and harassed. We assumed they were. Weinstein clearly did not self-identify as a sexual predator. The news was that systemic sexual violence and the complacent attitude of the public was finally identified and dealt with. “Women are raped” is old news. “We identify and stop supporting men who sexually assault women” is news.

#MeToo is trending sexualized violence. It is normalizing it. #MeToo returns a woman’s individual trauma into the generic group experience we were taught to expect. #MeToo exposes victims while  predators stay shielded in anonymity and even ignorance.

Wait! There is an upside. #MeToo has raised awareness about something else. Unintentionally. The eye-opening negative responses to #MeToo. Sexual assault trolls. These trolling replies show us WHY people choose not to disclose what has happened to them. These trolling replies demonstrate WHY sexual violence against women is not only surviving but thriving. These trolling replies tell us that we still feel women must endure sexual violence.

What are we setting-up women for? I have made a quick list of some of the most common answers I have seen or heard to people disclosing sexual assault. Obviously, these replies seemed appropriate to someone at the time.

  • Did you tell him you didn’t want him to sexually assault you?
  • Maybe he thought you wanted it
  • This isn’t a great job for women – you knew that when you came in
  • This is why we don’t like hiring women
  • Were you wearing that shirt?
  • You don’t seem like his type
  • You were playing with fire
  • I have had difficulties in my life, too – you don’t hear me complaining
  • Stop playing the gender card
  • Were you drinking?
  • #MeToo – but I liked it.

Still a fan? Let us re-frame outside of the #MeToo disclosure in a way that will engage even the biggest sexists. If YOUR daughter, YOUR wife, YOUR sister, or YOUR mother told you her boss raped her, would you consider any of those responses appropriate?

None of these responses discuss the asshole rapist. The responses blame the victim. The responses assume women, did not adequately prevent sexual assault or are not coping well enough with this rite of passage. These responses prevent women from laying a charge and may even cause them to doubt whether they were “really” sexually assaulted. When these responses are triggered by #MeToo, we see the problem not about awareness of sexualized violence. The problem is that sexualized violence of women is too normal.

We need to change the dialogue. We need to move it away from victim-blaming to society-changing.  We don’t need to line-up women publicly to disclose the obvious, only to knock them down for it. For every woman who is disclosing sexual violence there is an unidentified sexual predator who is roaming amongst us. He relies on many of the responses, above, to justify his own behaviour. He may not see himself as a predator. For every potential victim of sexual violence, there is a potential sexual predator.

I hope that, rather than warning women to distrust men, we begin by warning men that they are at risk of being a sexual aggressor. We cannot stop sexual violence by warning potential female victims at every stage of their lives to watch out for men. We must begin by warning and educating potential predators: reminding men at every stage of their lives that they are at risk of sexually violating women. We need to move from #MeToo to #YouToo.

Band-Aid Solutions

I am a Country mouse. I love the rural lifestyle: the plentiful space, the low expenses, the juicy gossip. I, like other Country mice, embrace this lifestyle, giving-up the luxuries of big city living: the plentiful internet connectivity, expensive nights on the town and the Jamba Juice.

We can bike from Mount Martin Ski Hill to the Deep River Hospital in under 15 minutes, and walk the same in under an hour. Everything is accessible by the heel-toe express. We don’t have the luxury of public transportation. If our health, disability or injuries hinder our mobility, we can drive (or have someone else drive us) and park nearby.

Lucky for us Country mice, parking everywhere in Deep River is free.

In Deep River, we also enjoy high-quality free public healthcare. Like many public services, the Deep River and District Hospital struggles for cash. In November 2017, the hospital is monetizing its parking lot. The hospital would be the ONLY place in Deep River where you need to pay to park. The logic is confused.

Going to the bar? Free parking while you drink. Collapsed lung? Five dollars, please.

This is a City Mouse idea through and through.

Big City Mice are accustomed to paying for parking. Heck, they pay for everything else. Cities are different than the country. Crowded cities have paid parking everywhere. Parking is at a premium. The wealthy tend to pay parking because the wealthy have private transportation. Public transportation is available for those who are sick and injured. Our town takes the Country mouse approach: everywhere you park in Deep River is free, especially for those who need vehicles to access public services.

The hospital’s fundraising decision hopes to find money between the yellow lines of the hospital parking lot. This seems trivial at first glance. It isn’t. Putting a ‘tax’ on parking means putting a ‘tax’ on health care.

Free public access to health care is a pillar of Canadianism. We can go to the doctor’s and find out early that our freckle is not just a freckle. Kids can get the urgent care they need without bankrupting their families. From Far and Wide, Oh Canada, We’re Hospitalized for Free!

The health care parking ‘tax’ hits the Deep Riverites who are too sick or injured to walk hardest. It hits them at the hospital: the very place you need to go when you are sick or injured. The most vulnerable in our community, who must drive or have someone else drive them to the hospital, foot the extra cost of the hospital. The rest of us skip-out on the bill, but keep the comfort of having a hospital in an otherwise rural and secluded area.

Hospital funding is a political matter. If we are deficient in our ability to provide adequate healthcare, we need to look to our politicians, not our patients. The current Liberal government under Wynne has provided minimal increases to hospital budgets. Big money is found in big pockets: our elected government. If we are unhappy with the allocation of budgetary funds, we need to reconsider our election choices and, if necessary, lobby for change.

Until big change happens for the hospital, we need to resist the urge to make band-aid City Mouse solutions on the financial backs of the most vulnerable in our area. A wonderful part of Country mouse living is the small community living. We support each other, and we protect our sick, disabled and injured. Free health care in Deep River should mean just that. We shelter our sick and injured, we do not profit off of their backs.

 

Making the Cut

In grade five, I was one of two kids to be cut from the 30 + student cross-country team. I am fairly certain the other was a smoker. I watched the race and saw my friends cross the finish line, hugging each other. It felt terrible.

On the Deep River Discussion forum this week, a dad was concerned that his kids likewise did not make the cross-country cut. The kids had tried hard but were not quite fast enough. He asked, is it appropriate to leave young kids out of school teams?  We have two competing sides.

TEAM 1 – LET EM PLAY: Only 30% of school sports is about the specific sport itself, in my non-expert opinion. The rest? Socializing, school pride, trips, health, physical activity, teamwork and leadership. In school, you can put a ball through a hoop/in a net/past the touchdown line hundreds of times, sure. I bet that what you remember more, however, was the team you were with, the memories of trips, and the exhilaration of exercise and pushing yourself past what you thought you could do. Looking at all the great benefits of elementary and high school sports teams, the answer seems obvious: everybody gets a turn, nobody gets cut! Flowers and rainbows all around!

TEAM 2 – KICK EM OUT: Without a low there is no high. Without an in there is no out. And without the possibility of failure, success does not taste as sweet. The participation-ribbon mentality, it seems, might discourage the internal motivation to push one’s self to the limit. If everybody succeeds in school, kids may not be prepared for the inevitability of failure later in life. Setting the goal of qualifying for a team is a great exercise for kids, particularly when the goal is harder to attain. Would you really run eight laps around the school everyday if you knew you could still make the team eating Oreos instead? Life is hard. Sports are hard. School is a great time to learn the importance of attempting goals even if you might not succeed.

To be entirely honest, when I read the Deep River Discussion post, I had my thumbs poised to talk about the importance of failure, the lessons learned in goal-setting, and the value of qualifying for a group you worked hard for. But I paused: that was my experience.

School sports need to be considered in context: not everyone comes to the tryouts with the same background. A friend of mine reminded me that, when she came to St. Mary’s in grade 7 from St. Anthony’s, she and her Chalk River friends had much less exposure to sports within their curriculum. Even within school classes, we understand some kids are provided with expensive gear, summer sports, and sports camps while others may not. This is the gap that kids come to school with. The gap is further widened when the school sports team only trains the kids who out-compete their peers. Teams also serve as a social net to facilitate friendships and bonding. Kids who are cut will necessarily miss-out on the high of competition, the comradery in the locker room, and the pride of being a part of something bigger.

Elementary school should be a place of opportunities and a place of learning. To meet both objectives, an alternative solution must be reached. Young kids have almost no control over their lives: they don’t make money, they are always in someone’s custody, they basically go where you put them. The consequences of being excluded from the team are too harsh for kids who have little control over how much they can work towards a goal. The solution needs to be a compromise. Having a B-Team and an A-Team for every sport ensures that everyone can participate in the B-Team, while those who are most competitive have the opportunity to further excel and qualify for an A-Team. Sport participation can be non-binary, inclusive and still fun.

After I did not make the team in grade five, I was devastated. I began to run again 13 years later, in the company of friends, my dog, and running groups (none of whom dared kick me out for being too slow!). It was not the fear of not keeping up with the group that motivated me to work harder, but their unconditional support. As I became a stronger and better athlete, the possibility of qualifying for the Canadian Age Group Triathlon Team did motivate me. The potential for failing heightened the stakes and pushed me further.

Last week, at 33, I raced against women from around the world at the International Triathlon Union World Triathlon Championship in Rotterdam. I felt proud to be a part of a great group of athletes representing Canada. Many women on the team likewise were not high school athletes. We shared stories, experienced a new city, met other amateur athletes from around the world, and pushed ourselves to new levels on a gruelling course. As I crossed the finish line, I realized I had hit the goal I had set for myself in grade five: I finally made the team, I ran the race.