I had a wonderful walk around the Seawall to English Bay, one of the most beautiful and lively parts of Vancouver. It was a very hot and sunny day, and the idea was to grab some sushi and catch the sunset while sitting on the beach. We did that, and after dinner were joined by a friend who lives nearby and often pops down in the evening to enjoy the sunset.
English Bay, Inuskhuk monument, Vancouver
The beach echoed with laughter; people played volleyball, picnicked or just watched the sea. A happier, more peaceful and friendly environment cannot be imagined. My friend looked around nervously, then lit a cigarette, surreptitiously. “Keep a look out for the police,” she said. “Why? “ I asked, surprised.
“Because it’s illegal to smoke on the beach or in any public place,” was the astounding reply. I was amazed.
“Do they really arrest people for smoking?!” I asked.
My friend said it had not happened to her but police did patrol the beach and in theory they could do so.
Now I’m a non smoker, have never smoked and find the habit “yuck” – nasty to me, though obviously not to those who do it. However I have not really got a problem with people smoking, except in restaurants. Yes, I’d prefer it if people didn’t smoke at all, but I have always preferred a live and let live policy. (What do I find more offensive in public than smoking? A lot. Cars and buses idling and emitting fumes, litter, ill-behaved children, people spitting on the pavement, people who push past shouting “Scuse me” in the tone you know they mean “f*** outta my way” etc. etc.) Smoking sucks, but as offensiveness it’s just not a big deal.
Later that night I went home and watched the late news. There came a report of yet another manifestation of “the Canadian Tendency” – this time in Mississauga, Ontario. What is the Canadian Tendency? Well in the Anglo speaking world there are certain observable tendencies in homicide. In the USA it’s all about grabbing a pile of guns and running out blowing people away. The British Tendency is to plot and do clever, creepy and crafty murders. The Canadian Tendency is to cut people into very small pieces and strew the pieces around – in the forest, in parks, and in the sea. That day, some limbs and head were found in a park in Mississauga.
Now it might be a stretch to connect the story of the police being charged with the idiotic task of arresting smokers, to the idea of murderers sowing the country with body parts, but I can’t get the connection out of my mind. And then the next day I saw in the local “newspaper” a shrill Letter to the Editor complaining about “appalling behaviour” and that that there are not enough police on English Bay, that they are failing in their duty to arrest smokers and people drinking alcohol (the letter also mentions swearing, which so far as I know is not yet an offence). Even assuming that the letter writer is not some kind of nut, who might well be living in the wrong part of the world (North Korea might suit), one might be tempted to point out that the most inner-city beach in a city of 2.5 million might get a bit crowded and over-lively on a hot summer’s day and evening?
So I’m thinking, what’s really “appalling behaviour” in a public park in Canada? Not really someone having a quick fag. I’d have that any day over the prospect of surprising someone in the act of chopping a body into pieces, or of finding a severed head. THAT is vile. And I’d kind of prefer if the police would focus on things like catching the kind of people who chop other people up into tiny parts and strew them around the parks and beaches.