Freedom of revulsion

Hey, remember when the city was considering a ban on ski masks during protests and I called that grossly unconstitutional?

Now the police want a by-law making it illegal to insult police officers.

The “verbal abuse” by-law is still in the “early stages”, which I guess means it hasn’t gotten to the “isn’t this a really stupid idea?” filter yet.

UPDATE: Lagacé also has a raised eyebrow about this.

13 thoughts on “Freedom of revulsion

    1. Fagstein Post author

      And then what? Do we make insulting politicians illegal too? Newspaper editors? Celebrities? Criminals? Do we extend that to all criticism that the victim considers unfair?

  1. Sandman5

    While police deserve our respect it should be earned and not legislated. Also, what ever happened to freedom of speech?

  2. MAB

    After recently taking an extra part-time job doing telephone surveys I must admit that I have new-found attitudes for verbal abuse… Behind the safety of a headset that smells like wet-naps, it’s easy for me to shrug it off–I realize it’s well within people’s right to say whatever they want on the phone (though the most angry people seem to be the last ones to understand what rights they do and don’t have, i.e. if you really don’t want random calls at dinnertime, don’t give your number and permission for a company to call you to do a quality of service survey). 99% of the population seems to have no problem with courtesy when faced with courtesy. The police department, though dealing with people head-on, ought to have thicker skin than a phone operator, or at worst wonder why people might be getting verbally abusive with them.

  3. Vincent Stephen-Ong

    For all the useless petitions and facebook groups out there, why isn’t there one protesting this? Bleah.

    As far as people who think the law is a good idea- we already have laws concerning freedom of speech and defamation of character, etc, etc. Why in the world should an officer of the law (or any other person) have an exception or special clause?

  4. Jenny

    I think it’s really dangerous to allow a law about something that is so subjective as insults or verbal abuse. Where does start and where does it end? Obviously name calling is easy to recognize, but how about more “subtle” insults? Where is it written what does or does not constitute verbal abuse? Is the bylaw going to include a list?
    I think it gives police officers way too much power, especially in cases where it’s a one-on-one confrontation: who are the courts going to side with? Think of situations like the one that turned into the Villanueva shooting. The youngsters were sitting around and probably started off with yelling a few not so subtle verbs at the incoming officers. Would arresting them immediatly have stopped the entire thing from happening? Doubt so.
    The fact is that police officers are human beings and are subject to mood swings like the rest of us. So giving them the power to act on a perceived verbal abuse when for example, they’e having a bad day, is just plain silly. Is there going to be a supervising officer to say “nope, you can’t give any tickets for this today, you’re just too touchy”?

  5. Steven Mansour

    The dealings I’ve had with Montreal Police officers fall into three categories –

    – We’re both very courteous, respectful and polite.
    – I’m very respectful and polite while he (it’s almost always a “he” – girl cops have been much friendlier on average) is snarky and condescending, with undertones of racism.
    – I’m very respectful and polite while he behaves in an aggressive, almost threatening manner.

    So, what constitutes an insult? Telling a cop that he’s acting like a jerk? Asking him what he’s scared of when he approaches my legally parked car with his handgun half out of its holster? This is Montreal, not Mexico City.

  6. Anonymous

    The problem with the “no mask” rule is that it appears to specifically target the “Anonymous” protests against the Church of $cientology sect. The Church of $cientology (which has been deemed a criminal organization by the Supreme Court of Canada) is notorious for it’s vicious attacks against detractors, hence the need for protestors to protest masked.

    In any case, such a bylaw is ultra-vires, as the city of Outremont found when it tried to outlaw bathing suits, back in 1985, at the urging of the hassidim community who cannot bear the sight of human skin; they argued that sunbathers lowered their property values, and the then mayor, human-rights champion, Jérôme “martial law” Choquette obligingly agreed.

    The superior court of Québec found out in a November 1985 judgment that “legislating how people shall be dressed in public is solely the province of the Federal Government, through the Criminal Code”.

  7. Christian

    I read on another blog that if cops didn’t dress up as clowns these days, maybe there would be no need for such a law. :)

  8. Mr. Robertson

    I don’t get this hate for the police. If they insult you, they get suspended or even fired. However you’re allowed to call them whatever you want with no ramifications? They’re the ones putting their lives on the line every day.

    Insulting people is in bad taste. You’re free to insult whomever you want, but calling someone an idiot isn’t going to solve anything. I do believe in freedom of speech, but insulting the police is a little over the line. It’s not like they’re oppressive and merciless (well aside from a few isolated incidents). Criticize the ideas not the person.

  9. Jean Naimard

    The police are in their own little word. They are part of the justice system and are thus deemed to be trustworthy.

    The problem arises when they deem themselves superior to other people (hence their «hostie de civil» monicker for those who are not anointed with the blessing of being police) and expect respect, even when they are despicable and abuse their power (tell that to the guy who was ticketed $200 for sitting on a concrete block in the Square Émilie Gamelin, juse because he took pictures of cops harassing a squeegee kid).

    5 years ago, someone I work with was treated like a terrorist, just because he was taking pictures of old buses in Ottawa for a friend who, being a bus fan, asked him to take pictures for him. The police thought he was planning a terrorist attack and was extremely rudely interrogated by cops who were irate that he would dare ask them which law he violated (none, of course).

    The cops are already called pigs, dogs, poulets, vaches, bœufs, showing how they are respected. Now, if they think they can force people to respect them by outlawing disrespect, this will breed even more resentment and distrust against them.

    You can count on kids taunting the cops just to get a ticket; being minors, not much can be done against them. Likewise, homeless will insult them; those squeegees who carry $2000 of tickets won’t blink at the perspective of getting another $200 ticket.

    This request comes straight from the police union. There is no reason why the city should acquiesce to it, especially that they have not negociated a work contract.

    This ridiculous law will only increase the contempt of the public for the police, and the police won’t have any incentive to polish their act, as they will be able to scare people into getting abused.

    There are going to be municipal elections, this fall. With the fiasco of the iced sidewalks, the current municipal administration has run it’s course, and has attained it’s level of incompetence and ineptness.

    It is time for a change. Let’s kick those bufoons out.


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