Equality before the law – right? - The Orca
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Equality before the law – right?

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Jody Vance wonders why the most flagrant of rulebreakers get a pass.

This week I’ve got a bit of a bee in my bonnet about the lost Middle when it comes to bylaw enforcement and how, more and more, these rules seem to only apply to some.

Typically those “some” are the easiest target for ticketing. That’s just not right. Rules should apply to all; full stop.

Regular people are on the hook for ever-escalating financial consequences for even the smallest and most benign of citations, while a growing number get a pass on massive pre-planned breaches.

The reasons behind the pass-takers doesn’t much matter. Think of the annual 4/20 protests, or the climate protests that shut down major bridges in Vancouver and Victoria Monday.

Events like these cost big dollars in policing, not to mention wasted time and energy for security and dispersing crowds. All too often there are zero consequences.

Back to us, we the people, we get the ticket – often for doing very little. We get dinged when no one is being bothered, there’s no need for a line of cops, and yet here we are with the must-pay citations.

Take last Sunday in my world as I headed to the Sea Bus to pick up a friend to carpool to a late colleague’s Celebration of Life. My cell rang with an ETA on pickup, so I pulled over in a commercial zone for 30 seconds to answer the call.

Not ten seconds later I look up to see a bylaw officer with ticket machine in hand was photographing my plate. As a citizen who always pays my fines, I accepted my fate and politely asked “Really? A ticket at 3:00pm on a Sunday?”

The officer replied “Commercial zone, it’s seven days a week.”

I tried to explain that I was pulled over for a few seconds to take a call to see if I should park or not. I mentioned you could park a semi behind me. His reply was “that’s the bylaw; the rule is you can’t stop here.”

Okay.

Resigned to the fact that the ticket was coming through my passenger side window, any moment, next I inquired as to the cost of said fine. He said something to the effect of, “well, I’m going as slowly as I can…trying to make it nothing.”

Feeling like karma is a thing, thrilled with getting a pass, I drove off to the meter parking ahead — paid the 75 cents, and waited five minutes for my friend from the Sea Bus.

Two days later, the mail arrives. Voila, a ticket for $60, compliments of the City of Vancouver bylaw office. My initial reaction was, “alright, best pay this puppy” and then I thought that it was rather dirty pool of the officer to make like I was being let off the hook for it. On principle this is wrong and a cautionary tale for anyone handed such a line.

So, here I have my ticket. If not paid by Monday, the fine will grow and grow, all the way to $150 if not paid by November 12th.

Of course, I’m miffed that he lied to me, and of course, I will pay the fine. There’s no way around these tickets when you actually did stop in the no stopping zone.

But where’s the Middle in bylaw enforcement for the little people?

Why are the citizens breaking far more important bylaws – much more flagrantly – and inconveniencing entire neighbourhoods, not handed citations? Why is it that the easy mark only gets dinged?

It’s a growing issue in our city.

Watching the news on Monday night I saw a group of Extinction Rebellion protestors, who had shut down Burrard St Bridge in Vancouver from 8:30am to 11:00pm, requiring police to have them disperse. Do THEY get bylaw citations?

Some campers in city parks who are clearly professional protestors not looking for a subsidized space to hang their hats?

It seems as though we need to find a way to not just go with the easy ticket, that really has zero impact and focus on those who are breaking the big rules. Large gatherings where bylaws are openly broken by tens of thousands, unpermitted planned protests that snarl traffic, illegal camps in city parks — these are all trends in BC.

Where is the fallout for these people? Where are the consequences, the ticket on file with an ever-blooming fee? Why are those saved for the smallest of infractions?

It’s feeling akin to the divide in society, the haves and the have nots. The haves, in this case, have the safety in numbers — too much of a headache to hand out the tickets. The have nots are simply folks going about their day, trying to pick up their friends at a transit stop. Lord knows there’s no parking, or apparently pausing, anywhere near there.

We are a hive. And yet the worker bees are carrying the weight of bylaw infraction payment.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.

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