COLUMN: Needless law making

Governments love to create new laws. It is easier for government to create a new law to deal with an issue, than use an existing law on the books. Creating new laws enables the government to look proactive, responding to social crisis, or even social-engineer a bit. Enforcing existing laws makes government look controlling. The problem with creating new laws is that you have to enforce them, which starts the vicious cycle again.

A textbook case for this Ontario’s Distracted Driving laws. Then Premier Dalton McGuinty passed a new law to deal with “distracted driving” which went into effect in October 2009. The province has tinkered with the fines and penalties ever since. The effect has been minimal. Even with increased fines and now demerit points off your drivers licence, the safety issue has not reduced. Yes, police have been enforcing this law, but it has not changed behaviour. Other than collecting money for the government, this social-engineering law has been ineffective.

Two laws exist on the books that already apply to, and can deal with, distracted driving. Under the Highway Traffic Act in Ontario, there is Section 130 for careless driving. This is defined as “without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway”. This law carries a fine between $200 and $1,000, and/or up to six months in jail and/or a driving ban of up to two years if found guilty. An even stronger law exists at the federal level. Under section 249 of the Criminal Code of Canada, it states that it is “an offence to drive or operate a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public.” If found guilty, the punishment is a minimum one year driving ban, jail time or probation, and at least $1,000 in fines. Plus a criminal record.

One can argue that using the two laws already on the books is trying hit a fly with a sledgehammer. Maybe, but we’ve seen little result over the last seven years from the government’s plan.

This reactionary, feel-good law making, instead of using existing laws applies in other places. The federal Liberal government has introduced a bill to protect transgender Canadians from hate speech and discrimination. This is a needless bill because the laws already exist to protect transgender Canadians, yet the government will not enforce them.

Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects all Canadians from discrimination on the basis of “race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability”. Sections 318, 319 and 320 of the Criminal Code of Canada deal with hate-speech against identifiable groups. Transgendered people are an identifiable group. Look at the word transgendered, it means transitioning from one gender to another. Transgender people still have a gender. So existing laws, federal criminal laws with severe consequences apply here. It is part of our constitution that there is protection for this group, and all groups.

Each province and territory in Canada also has their own “charter”-type of code which applies in conjunction with the Canadian Constitution. So laws here are on the books in all jurisdictions that comprise Canada.

Why did the Trudeau government put forth legislation when existing laws already apply? It looks like the government is doing something. It looks like the government is tackling a big issue of the day.

Another way to deal with this is increase budgets for Crown prosecutors, police and the courts to investigate and prosecute actual discrimination. But there’s that enforcement thing again. Increasing enforcement means the government would have to go from making laws to being protector of our laws and freedoms. We cannot have have the government doing the job we give government to do now can we?

Enforcing existing laws which already guarantee individual and groups rights is the real work that needs to be done. It is the real work of government, and which Liberal governments fail to do.

Passing more laws, which pile on to existing laws does nothing but make busywork for politicos and is a meaningless gesture. A meaningless cycle that could be stopped if government just did it’s job.

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