ORWELLIAN TIMES: Canadian Big Brother at the Municipal level (City of Burnaby)

Bby Thought Police Case

…At the end of the day, I refuse to believe that our provincial and local legislators would be proud of the Orwellian stigma already attached to their bylaws, that require from the BC residents (and outside visitors), as per Burnaby “Taught Police” (Bylaw Dep.) officer Medos’ own words:

“We give you the driver, all responsibility to be aware and educated on the bylaws in place… All bylaws are public information that should be researched if you are planning to park or drive any vehicle on Burnaby City property”-

Orwellian (and ludicrous), isn’t it!?

ORWELLIAN TIMES: Canadian Big Brother at the Municipal level (City of Burnaby)

May 2016 @ Province of British Columbia

 

INTRODUCTION (Orwellian times [1])

I always considered myself a “law abiding citizen”. As a matter of fact, for the last 20 years I never paid a single ticket or committed any traffic violation or accident, at least not at my fault. Coming to Canada two decades ago, from the Eastern-European country that once was considered a totalitarian and disrespectful for the democratic and human rights of own citizens; I felt relief that I become the citizen of the country, where human rights are respected, and where the authorities, when dealing with public, are fair & transparent, and the laws are designed primarily to protect the rights of the law abiding citizens, like me (and even of those “not so law abiding”)

…And I lived in this false belief until November last year, when I bumped into the “invisible & predatory” Bylaw No. 4299, enacted by the City of Burnaby, and got “ticketed” for the alleged parking infraction on the public road. Some of you probably would laugh about my “outcry” concerning minor parking ticket. But for me this is not а laughing matter, neither is a matter of the “ticket size” (which probably will double in the amount by the time I get through “the adjudication process”) – For me this is the matter of principles, and it is about our basic citizen and human rights – the rights to live not harassed, to be properly informed on all existing (by)laws, and not to be bullied by some zealous municipal “thought police[2]”.

 

ALLEGED TRAFFIC INFRACTION

On November 30th 2015 I parked my vehicle on Cassie Ave in Burnaby, next to the private driveway leading to the underground parking of an apartment building. On the approach to this location, I did not observe any traffic signage restricting the parking at the “incriminating spot”- There was not (visible) posted any “No Parking” sign, neither the curb line was painted in a “red or yellow color”, that would indicate parking restrictions, as it would be required by the existing provincial laws (if the space was designated as a “no parking zone”).

Armed with such knowledge and fully confident that I was not breaking any law (and unaware of the existing non-transparent Burnaby bylaw), I parked my vehicle on the far-side, making sure that I did not block the driveway, and that way stayed in the compliance with BC Motor Vehicle Act (the only law I was legally required to observe and comply with). Couple hours later, I found a ticket (the fine), issued by the Burnaby traffic bylaw enforcement officer, citing alleged parking violation #60009237. He stated that I was parked less than “5 feet” on the far-side, which was apparently a parking offense under their (invisible) city bylaw. To add to my confusion, city of Burnaby used here the “Imperial system” (in “feet”) as a measurement for the alleged violation, while the legal one as we know (in Canada) is the “Metric system”. Anyway, according to my visual measurement I was parked about little less than one meter from the driveway- which again, was in the full compliance with the provincial law, I was only legally required to be familiar with.

***

As most of us (the BC residents) are aware, any holder of the valid BC driver’s license, when taking the driver’s exam, is required to demonstrate satisfactory knowledge of the BC Motor Vehicle Act (the relevant sections) in order to be licensed to drive (and park) a motor vehicle on BC public roads. In particular (& applicable here), the article 189 of BC Motor Vehicle Act prohibits parking: “(a)- in front (across) of a public or private driveway”, or: “(n)- in a place in contravention of a traffic control device, that gives notice that stopping, standing, or parking there is prohibited or restricted”(the rules I observed and complied with here).

Furthermore, Section 124 of the same law instructs municipalities- in order to give effect to their traffic bylaws, to place or erect traffic control devices:

“(1) The council of a municipality may, by bylaw not inconsistent with or derogatory to this Part, provide for the following: (a) the placing or erection of traffic control devices to give effect to this Act or a bylaw adopted under this section;

The only problem with this section is, that BC law maker used here the word “may” instead of a word “must”- that provided some “dishonest municipalities” with a loophole in the superior provincial law, which some of them now use as a formal justification for their own “ticketing-predatory practice” (as demonstrated here through my personal experience) imposing their non-transparent, and sometimes “invisible”, bylaws.

 

THE MUNICIPAL “THOUGHT POLICE”: VISITING DRIVERS NOT WELCOME IN BURNABY, UNLESS “THEY RESEARCH AND EDUCATE THEMSELVES ON THE BYLAWS IN PLACE”

 What comes next is the real “Orwellian Saga”. If George Orwell was today alive by some miracle, I have no doubt that he would be very proud of the Burnaby “Thought Police” (bylaw) department, for bringing to life his political fiction novel “1984[3]”…

As I mentioned above- armed with (legally required) thorough knowledge of the parking sections of BC provincial law “Motor Vehicle Act”, with the firm belief that I did not break any law, and (until November last year) completely unaware of the above specifics of the Burnaby parking bylaw; On December 1st 2015, I filed the formal complaint online with the Burnaby bylaw department, stating that I could not break their bylaw because I was not aware of it- due to the complete lack of its visibility (missing applicable traffic signage & its non-transparency) on public road- Cassie Ave, and highlighting the fact that I was in a full compliance with “parking section” #189 of BC Motor Vehicle Act– Asking them to cancel my parking ticket.

***

On January 19th 2016 my online complaint was promptly rejected by the Burnaby bylaw Screening officer Medos. He confronted my claim (that their bylaw parking rules were not visibly marked with the proper traffic signage) with the next statement:

“We are not required by the Province of British Columbia to sign every bylaw, and we put full responsibility on the driver to be educated on our bylaws and be aware of the parking restrictions within our municipality. The reasoning for this bylaw to be in place is due to safety and visibility.”

What struck me in this “Orwellian response” was the obvious attempt by the City of Burnaby to take an advantage of the loophole (lack of clarity) in the provincial law, which instructs them (but it does not make it mandatory) to post traffic control devices where their parking bylaw is “not inconsistent or derogatory” with the relevant sections of BC Motor Vehicle Act!?

His next statement that “We (bylaw dep.) put full responsibility on the driver to be educated on our bylaws” indicated to me that I was here, most likely, a subject to the arbitrary, unfair, and unreasonable bylaw enforcement punishment.

Finally, the officer’s next explanation:  “The reasoning for this bylaw to be in place is due to safety and visibility” – sounded to me very hypocritical. Because, if they were really genuinely concerned about the safety of their residents (drivers coming out of the driveway), their course of action would be pro-active and preventable, not “post-mortem”-

Firstly, if they were really motivated to prevent (according to the formal justification for their non-transparent bylaw) drivers to illegally park vehicles that eventually would create a hazard for their residents, they wouldn’t be refusing to properly sign “no parking zones” on Cassie Ave and elsewhere; Secondly, if the illegally parked vehicles were still creating hazard for other drivers, they should promptly remove them (tow away) from the alleged hazardous spots. Instead, they obviously are opting for the non-transparency and financial sanctioning (after the fact) of the unsuspected “violators” like me, completely disregarding the very safety of their residents- which they are using here as “the reasoning for this bylaw”.

The real reasons for such two faced approach, I believe, are here easy to guess!?

***

Not satisfied with the above bureaucratic response from the officer Medos, I contacted him on January 19th 2016 with a very simple and logical question:

  • Am I required by (any) law to be “educated on your bylaws”, as you put that way in your “follow up notice”? If so, please cite the specific law and its article.”

His response on January 20th 2016 was even more Orwellian than the previous one:

  • “There is no law in place to be educated on our bylaws, but as a City, we give you the driver, all responsibility to be aware and educated on the bylaws in place. Without being aware and educated on them, you expose yourself to being ticketed and/or towed in the future for violating bylaws that you may or may not be aware of. Simply “Not knowing” a bylaw is not considered a reason for dispute as all bylaws are public information that should be researched if you are planning to park or drive any vehicle on Burnaby City property.”

In other words, Burnaby Bylaw Dep. admits here that there is no legal basis (by any law) that would require outside visitors (the drivers), as the put that way: “to perform research and educate themselves on their municipal bylaws before they visit their city”– yet, they still hold me legally liable for the alleged parking infraction, even by their own admission I was not legally required to know their invisible parking bylaw!?

I ask them again, now publicly: “What is then the legal basis for prosecuting me for your invisible parking bylaw, if there is no legal requirement (by your own admission) for visiting drivers to be educated on them”?

One might even understand such logic, if the City of Burnaby would expect (and require) only from their city residents to become familiar with some specific municipal bylaws- but to expect the visitors from the other municipalities (& from elsewhere), before they come to Burnaby, to “do research and educate themselves on their city bylaws” is unreasonable, unfair, utterly ludicrous and insulting to human intelligence.

Can you imagine if all 13 municipalities in Metro Vancouver- or even all 162 in the Province of British Columbia- would “put responsibility” (require from) on BC drivers and other visitors to research & study their parking bylaws, before they visit their city? In my opinion such Orwellian approach, to the parking bylaw applications throughout the province, would only make a perfect “Visitor Deterrent”, and erode their public image and reputation; After having such unpleasant experience with Burnaby “Police of Thought” (bylaw dep.), I really hesitate to visit this city again.

…Something is really fishy in the “Orwellian City of Burnaby”…

 

THERE IS PUBLIC RECOGNITION BY BC OMBUDSPERSON, SOME LAW SCHOOLS, AND CONCERNED CITIZENS, THAT SOMETHING IS FISHY ABOUT MUNICIPAL BYLAWS- YET NOTHING IS DONE TO CORRECT THE PROBLEM!?

In recent days I found online many similar complaints related to this Burnaby “predatory parking bylaw”- the exact words, many Burnaby residents and visitors used to describe it on the social networks, some media outlets, and private blogs. Even one of them, frustrated (with the lack of transparency of parking bylaw) Burnaby resident dedicated the entire web site to the zealous Burnaby “Thought Police” (Bylaw Dep.)- http://whyticketme.com/ .

***

The Law Centre of University of Victoria in their research titled “Defending Traffic Tickets[4]” points at some arbitrary, unfair and unreasonable approach by different BC (by)law enforcement agencies, when dealing with the traffic related offenses-

Under section (a) Absolute and Strict Liability Offenses they highlight the fact that for someone to be accused of a traffic offense, he or she must be aware of the wrongdoing… They classify minor traffic offenses under the category of the “Strict liability offenses”, underlining the importance, for citizens who defend themselves against the traffic fines, to prove that they “acted without guilty intent and with a due diligence”- which is I believe fully applicable in my case!?

***

The most “damning” document, pointing the unfair and unjust practices by some BC municipalities, specifically singling out some non-transparent parking bylaws, was the BC Ombudsperson report #36, titled “BEST PRACTICES GUIDE FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS”, from March 2016-

Under section “Administrative Fairness in a Local Government”, Ombudsperson Jay Chalke highlights the importance of: “Clear, consistent and available public information about bylaws and enforcement practices….” He advises BC municipal city councils “to promote transparency by requiring staff to make information about bylaw enforcement public.”…

…To make clear, and to point out, which area of the local bylaws are most conflicting, Mr. Chalke specifically advised local governments to use proper “Signs to Provide Notice” for the public, citing the example of some non-transparent (invisible) parking bylaws, and describing this necessity with the next words:

“For minor bylaw offenses, local governments can provide sufficient general notice of potential enforcement by placing a sign describing the prohibited behaviorsuch as a no parking sign. Many local governments take this approach, posting signs informing the public of bylaws… Fair, reasonable and transparent practices in bylaw enforcement can enhance citizen confidence in local governments and can save public dollars by resolving disputes early and efficiently. Through fair treatment, local governments can ensure residents – be they those complaining of a bylaw infraction or those alleged to be in contravention of a bylaw – are dealt with respectfully.”

As my case illustrates it, is very obvious that City of Burnaby ignores the above BC Ombudsperson recommendation- to provide on all public roads “sufficient general notice by placing signs describing the prohibited behavior- such as a no parking sign”.

Here is obvious as well, that City of Burnaby has chosen for- NOT fair, NOT reasonable and NOT transparent practices by its bylaw enforcement department (The Police of Thought- in the Orwellian definition), eroding that way the BC citizens confidence in a local governments!?

As we can conclude safely here, the City of Burnaby consciously opted here for the UNFAIR & UNREASONABLE TREATMENT of their residents and visiting drivers- in other words they have opted for the very opposite from the Ombudsperson recommendations; Which was here, I believe, practically proven through the example of my alleged parking infraction #60009237 (under their “predatory traffic bylaw”) on Cassie Ave.

 

CONCLUSION

On January 21st. 2016, after my complaint was rejected for the second time by Burnaby bylaw screening officer Medos, I filed a request for the adjudication hearing. In same time I filed the complaint with the BC Ombudsperson office (file: 16-146478) in regard with the UNFAIR treatment by the City of Burnaby in this case.

BC Ombudsperson office advised me that they will follow up the case, but they want me first to exhaust all the legal avenues during my complaint process with the City of Burnaby (before they get involved again), recommending me to contact the Deputy City Manager for Burnaby, Mr. Turpin, and to try to reason with him. However my letter never reached Mr. Turpin, on January 28th. 2016, I received the letter from City Clerk D. Back (before Mr. Turpin’ office) informing that my complaint will be dealt at the adjudication hearing scheduled for May 26th. 2016.

***

Such bureaucratic response from the City of Burnaby, and the fact that I was already reminded (warned?) in the two city documents-

  1. A letter from the Burnaby adjudication coordinator O. Bell, from April 22nd. 2016, stating: “The Adjudicator will only determine whether or not the violation occurred…
  2. And a letter from the Screening officer Medos, from January 19th. 2016, stating: “Disputant Informed of Adjudication Process: Adjudicator can only decide if the offence occurred or did not occur…

…Explaining to me that Adjudicator will only rule: “whether or not the violation occurred”, indicating to me that scheduled adjudication hearing will not be FAIR and JUST, and that I practically was set to fail in advance; Because the role of the provincially appointed Adjudicator, as explained to me in above two documents, was reduced practically to some “measure tape guy”, allowing him to judge only- if I was parked less than“5 feet” from the driveway (the fact I don’t dispute), and preventing him to express the judgement on the Fairness and (Non) Transparency of the Burnaby’ “invisible parking bylaw”!?

***

However, main reason for my appeal and for making this case public, is not just to fight (and win) one minor “predatory parking ticket”-

It is rather about fighting and correcting the unfairness, hypocrisy, and non-transparency, demonstrated here by the City of Burnaby, and probably by some other municipalities;

And unawareness (or ignorance?), of the same problem by the provincial legislature…

To correct this problem and to address the other citizens’ justified concerns (and anger) about this issue (which is obviously recognized as an important issue, in the BC Ombudsperson’ public address from March 2016), I would recommend next course of action:

  1. Burnaby City Council to take a responsible and preventive approach to this problem (the obvious non-transparency of their bylaw), and properly sign all non-parking zones on the public roads within their City.
  2. BC provincial legislature to correct the BC Motor Vehicle Act, by making mandatory for the local governments to properly mark (with the traffic control devices) all non-parking spaces on the public roads and streets within the Province of British Columbia, as regulated by the provincial laws and the city bylaws.

Failure to address the above issues properly only would further erode the public confidence in the local and provincial governments, and contribute to the frustration of the citizens being unfairly targeted by the local “predatory bylaws”.

At the end of the day, I refuse to believe that our provincial and local legislators would be proud of the Orwellian stigma already attached to their bylaws, that require from the BC residents (and outside visitors), as per Burnaby “Taught Police” (Bylaw Dep) officer Medos’ own words:

“We give you the driver, all responsibility to be aware and educated on the bylaws in place… All bylaws are public information that should be researched if you are planning to park or drive any vehicle on Burnaby City property”-

Orwellian (and ludicrous), isn’t it!?

M. Novakovic – May 15th. 2016

Surrey resident @ Metro Vancouver, BC

Bby Thought Police Case

[1] Orwellian– Resembling the totalitarian political methods decried in the works of British democratic socialist and writer George Orwell, particularly in the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four; characterized by use of misleading terminology, propaganda, censorship, totalitarianism, surveillance and repression.

[2] The Thought Police of Orwell and their pursuit of thought-crime were based on the methods used by the totalitarian states and ideologies of the 20th century. – Wikipedia

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four

[4] http://thelawcentre.ca/defending

 

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