Jaywalking Through a Misguided System

Why We Should Contest the SPVM’s Prioritized Crackdown of Cross-Walkers

  • Graphic Sam Jones

Amid an all-enveloping snowstorm, as the elements of the gale force blizzards bully your now frosty exterior, you look left, look right, look left again and venture into the empty road.

The traffic light count-downer, along with an authoritative palm, informs you that you have five seconds to complete your traversal. As you make it across the road just as the time expires, the law apprehends you.

“It was a snowstorm as I’d never seen before,” said Jane Bernard, who recently received a $42 fine for failing to abide by Highway Safety Code C-24.2. Her offence is apparently non-compliance with the stipulation that “[a]t an intersection where there are pedestrian lights, pedestrians must comply therewith.” Events like this—albeit small—are evidence of the dehumanization of our public services that, as a result of budget cuts, become reliant on fines accrued from petty offences. This is why guys like Circulation Officer 5590 spend their afternoons clandestinely searching for jaywalkers.

“I had my head down to protect my eyes from the snow. I made a quick check for passing cars and the light then just went with a crowd of people who were also crossing,” Bernard continued. There is often a large police presence on Ste. Catherine St. W. and Stanley St., due to the location of their downtown headquarters.

I went to the SPVM neighbourhood bureau to protest on behalf of Bernard for this pedantic application of a highway code, which, undoubtedly, only serves to add to the police’s coffers. In fairness to the guy I spoke to, he seemed pretty disgusted with Circulation Officer 5590 who, lurking in the throngs of other miscreants, had singled Bernard out rather than apprehending the group of people who crossed at the same time as her.

“Perhaps because I was alone I was vulnerable and the police officer considered me an easier target for prosecution than the group who crossed the road at the same time as me,” Bernard said. The mere existence of these laws and codes gives the police license to abuse them and this singular application is emblematic of wider society, which cracks down on individuals whilst corporations and indeed nations get away with murder.

“He refused my request to sit in the car as he checked my information,” said Bernard. It was below zero as the snow catapulted itself downwards. “He purposefully left me outside his car.” Seeming to have basked in some sort of “sadistic enjoyment,” 5590 cheerily instructed Bernard to “have a nice day” after he stepped out of his car and provided the now snow-covered citizen with her ticket.

What sort of society are we living in when one can be fined by smug law enforcers for failing to cross a road in an allotted time? It is these same curious city bylaws that demand homeless people move on, that regulate noise and ensure protestors cannot demonstrate spontaneously. We must challenge these authorities when they invade our day-to-day life at every juncture. Not by careless law-breaking or vigilantism but by fighting the power through the appropriate channels and, when that fails, through activism.

Bernard will contest the charge due to the mitigating circumstances surrounding the event.

Names have been changed to protect identities.

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