Friday, May 16, 2008

In the summer of 2007 Fredericton businessman(he operates lawn care business that is "zero-emission" and "chemical free"-push mowers and manure) Lee Breen was going about his emission-free ways, skateboarding to a local supplier to buy his little brother a helmet so that he too could safely skateboard. "Pull over there fella !". It was the same police officer who had given him a warning the day before. Fredericton, you see, has a bylaw forbidding the use of "sleds, toboggans, wagons or skateboards" on the streets of New Brunswick's capital. Molly wonders, given the recent floods in that part of Canada whether the infinitely wise city council will get around to adding canoes to this list.
In any case Breen politely told the officer who issued the ticket that he had no intention of either paying the fine or of stopping his evil criminal ways ie he would continue to skateboard in line with his "green beliefs". Time went on. Last April a judge increased the fine to its $100 maximum in light of Breen's continued refusal to pay. Still no response from the unrepentant scofflaw. But the authorities at least had some sense of shame. It wasn't until Breen came down to the provincial courthouse, with a crowd of supporters estimated at between 100 and 150 people, to turn himself in that a judge signed a hurriedly drafted warrant for his arrest. The end result was that he was sentenced to five days in jail because of his refusal to pay. Given the fact that he had become something of a local cause célèbre he was transferred out of town to a jail in St. John's to serve his sentence. Hopefully no demos outside the jail there. Too late, however, to save the City further embarrassment, as the story was picked up by the news media, both national and international.
The implications of this story are interesting. It first of all highlights some rather obvious hypocrisy on the part of the Fredericton authorities. All of us are forever lectured, from both left and right, about our profligate, greenhouse gas producing ways, but, like government authorities everywhere and at all times, City Hall in Fredericton is desperate to make sure that any solutions to this problem don't go beyond the bounds that they have allowed. Determination to be in control, to have one's orders obeyed, always trumps any other presumed purpose that a government pronounces about. This desire to restrict the liberty of others is the whole reason behind belief in the efficacy and good intentions of government action. it's the worm in the apple. All other presumptive reasons are merely excuses.
No doubt driving past skateboarders can be "nervous-making", but no more so than driving past people on bicycles. This has been pointed out by Breen and his supporters. As someone who drives a lot in the course of work Molly can say one thing for sure. I've never yet seen any skateboarder moving down the road with their toddlers and pre-school children not-so-safely attached to them, like I've seen bicycle riders do. That is truly "nervous-making" because, while one "assumes" that parental instinct might move such people to caution, one also knows that it demonstrates an overwhelming arrogance that can easily overcome instinct based caution. It obviously already has in a self evident way.
For photos of the demonstration in support of Lee Breen go to Charles LeBlancs Other Blog at the LINK HERE. For a local Fredericton take on the matter see Fredericton Geek Speak HERE.

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