from the editor
// Samantha Thompson

A couple of weeks ago, a woman in Vancouver was fined for tying her dog outside and leaving him unattended. There was, she quickly learned, a city bylaw that prohibited this. As the saying goes, you are meant to learn from your mistakes. Instead, she ran to every news outlet that would listen to her, ranting about how unfair the bylaw was, and that she shouldn’t be punished for breaking it because she “didn’t know the bylaw existed.”

We have been sympathetic to her case, because she’s talking about an adorable fluffy dog. I love dogs more than the next person, but her ignorance about the bylaw is not an excuse for not following it. For any other bylaw or regulation, the argument would never hold up. It has now turned into a huge issue at City Hall, with Councillor Adriane Carr taking up the cause. She believes that this section of the bylaw is overkill, and that it is penalizing people who act responsibly with their pets. Although there are several valid arguments against the bylaw, one of the loudest seems to be that the it is ridiculous because no one knows about it.

This is where we enter an interesting situation. Using this bylaw as an example, the logic seems to be that if you don’t know about a law, you are not obliged to follow it. Although this broken bylaw is not putting lives at risk, excusing the violation of this bylaw is heading down a slippery slope. Soon, we’ll see court trials where the defendant is screaming at the judge: “Please, Your Honour, I’m innocent. I didn’t know it was illegal to eat people! Don’t send me to jail!”

Yes, this is an extreme example, but the logic still applies. Ignorance does not forgive our actions. It is our responsibility as a member of society to inform ourselves about the social contract we enter into by being a part of a community. You can believe that you cannot be ordered to enter into a social contract, but we have all still entered into one because we reap the benefits of living in an organized society.

I’m not telling you that you have to follow laws to the letter (it might be a good idea, but hey, I’m not your mother), but if you break a law you should do so as an informed human being.

This blissful ignorance is spreading through our society, and it is a pathetic excuse for wrongdoing. We live in the information age, where everything is readily available at our fingertips. If we want to know about a bylaw, we can go to the city’s website and find all the documents we need in less than five minutes.

The only excuse for not knowing about a law is laziness, and, quite frankly, that hasn’t been a valid reason in quite some time. We need to pull our act together and ensure that everything we do is done as informed citizens. We must seek out information, and help spread it amongst ourselves. We must go to the source to get details, and stop swallowing propaganda like it’s candy on Halloween.

Until we recognize that any lack of information or ignorance is our own fault, we remain vulnerable pawns in a government’s game. Because we are unaware, they hold all the power. There are a few voices speaking out, but because we can’t be bothered to look beyond the Metro or the Province, they’re being drowned out in this angry ocean of lies.

Do what you want, but recognize the consequences. I will only accept your reasoning if you have made the effort to inform yourself, and you should do the same. The longer we remain ignorant, the longer ridiculous stories like a dog bylaw are going to remain on the front page; meanwhile, Canada turns its back on the environment, tries to push through dangerous copyright legislation, and messes around with a controversial pipeline.

The government knows exactly what they're doing, and it’s time we follow their example and educate ourselves.

//Samantha Thompson, editor-in-chief

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com