Major Canadian city wants to ban 'gossiping, ostracizing, excluding another person'

According to media reports, the largest city in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan wants to enact a bylaw making it illegal to engage in activities such as gossiping, rumor mongering, shunning, and ostracizing:

A list of repeated and unprovoked behaviour that would be prohibited under a proposed City of Saskatoon anti-bullying bylaw: Taunting, tormenting, name-calling, ridiculing, insulting, mocking, directing slurs toward another person... Kicking, pushing, hair pulling, pinching... Shunning, ostracizing, excluding another person, gossiping or rumour mongering.

Repeated gossiping in public about another person could soon become illegal in Saskatoon... The law as written would apply to obvious public places like parks and streets, but also to private establishments like bars and restaurants...

The proposed bylaw would apply to people 12 years of age and older. Fines for a first offence could be as high as $300. Fines for subsequent offences could be as high as $2,500... The bylaw also prohibits aiding or encouraging bullying in public places.

Unless section 2, Part 1 (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) of the Canadian Constitution has become of no practical effect, it is difficult to see how such a bylaw could hold up to any meaningful judicial review:

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (d) freedom of association.

The freedoms of “opinion and expression” and “association” specifically preclude any restrictions against accurate statements or reasonable opinions (as could invariably fall under “gossiping or rumour mongering,” “insulting,” “mocking,” etc. -- depending on the content of the communications), as well as laws against shunning, ostracizing, or excluding another person.

How to reliably enforce such laws, outside of their inherent unconstitutionality, at an acceptable standard of proof is another major question. Furthermore, it would seem that a bylaw against “kicking, pushing, hair pulling, pinching” would cover activities that already fall under assault in the Criminal Code.

The City of Saskatoon is no stranger to bizarre ideas arising from its freak show of municipal governance. In 2004, the city's mayor was named “Canada's craziest mayor” for a range of unusual activities, including a suggestion that the city build a Simpsons Dome over the downtown.

Then, in 2013, the city proposed heated sidewalks in the downtown area to melt snow and ice over the winter. Of course, municipal officials cited Reykjavik, Iceland as inspiration for their heated sidewalk idea -- apparently overlooking the basic climate fact that the average low temperature during January in Reykjavik is just below freezing at -3 degrees Celcius, whereas in Saskatoon it is -21 degrees Celcius. Wind chills in Saskatoon during the winter can, and do, reach -60 degrees Celcius.

One would think that the city of Saskatoon would have more serious subjects to contemplate rather than building a Simpsons Dome and heated sidewalks and banning gossiping. Statistics Canada's database shows the city as having a total crime rate 54% above the Canadian average, a violent crime rate 27% above the national average, and a property crime rate 51% above the national average.

Among all Canadian cities, Saskatoon has the second highest rate of total crime, the highest rate of all Criminal Code violations (excluding traffic), the second highest violent crime rate, the third highest rate of property crime, and the highest rate of prostitution (the rate is 50% higher than the second-place city, Halifax).

The city also has the highest crime severity index in the nation and the second highest violent crime severity index.

And it is worried about gossiping?

Add to that the fact that in 2014 -- the latest year of available data -- the province's real per capita GDP growth rate was the third lowest among all Canadian provinces, and that in the past 12 months the city's unemployment rate has increased dramatically.

One would think the city's leadership team would have more important issues to be concerned about, rather than making it an international laughingstock -- which only serves to further harm its economy by scaring away new businesses and tourists.