Legal Equality

I don’t want to bore you with a laborious explanation of a legal concept, so I will keep this one very short: everybody is treated equally when it come to the law. What we work towards as a society is providing equal protection and benefit from the law to each and every person.  I’m going to assume all of you, my wonderful readers, are totally on-board with this.

But here’s the catch, the rub, the fly in the ointment: any law that protects you will protect the people you detest as well. It has to protect them, or it would be useless as a law. It’s interesting to watch what happens when the law rules in favour of something unpopular. Suddenly, a small group of people who normally champion rights and equality and due process become vocal advocates for making an exception to the law. I have two examples.

There’s a piece of property in town that has been owned by a developer for 30 years, but has been left undeveloped due to opposition from the local residents. The battle was back in front of city council again, and as a part of the fight, the developer’s lawyer made a Freedom of Information act request to see all of the public record correspondence between one of the most vocal opposing residents and city council. I understand why this upset people, and I agree that it might make average citizens less inclined to communicate with their councillor, but that’s unfortunately beside the point. If we demand that our elected officials are as open and transparent as possible, and that they make all official communication available as a part of the public record, then we have to accept that everyone gets to see those records, even people we disagree with.

The second example is a little bit steamier. Strippers! Specifically, a lady who was supposed to do a zombie-themed burlesque as a part of Shock Stock, a horror convention. She was going to do her strip-tease in a local bar, but the by-law officers descended and made it clear that there would be arrests and fines a’plenty if she dared to do her act. That is because, in London Ontario, you can only do a strip-tease act in a venue designated as an adult entertainment venue. Since the bar was not one of the few authorized strip clubs, the act was forbidden. And that’s fine: they went by the book, and enforced the existing bylaw. The trouble is, the law wasn’t applied equally a few weeks after that when the fire fighters stripped down to their skivvies to raise money for cancer research. Was this all-male beefcake revue held in a designated adult entertainment venue? Nope. And yet, they were allowed to perform the show with no threat of fine or incarceration.

I’m not making an ethical or moral judgement on either of these situations, because that’s not the issue. My personal standards shouldn’t be the guideline on when a law is applicable. We should absolutely review and change any law that does not serve the public good, but that has to happen through the established process. And until the due diligence has been completed, the law has to be enforced fairly and equally.

 

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