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Alberta town of Taber bans yelling, swearing and spitting

The next time you are in Taber, Alta., remember not to spit or it will cost you $75. If you get caught and yell and curse in anger, you will receive another fine, that one for $150.

And if that is the second time you have been caught yelling or cursing in public in Taber, then you will be labelled a serial offender, and the fine for that is $250.

They take their proper manners seriously in Taber, a town 50 kilometres east of Lethbridge renowned for its bountiful sunshine and its status as the Corn Capital of Canada. In late February, the town council unanimously approved a series of bylaws recommended by the Taber Police Service and the police commission.

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Those bylaws, now in effect, ban public fits of spitting, yelling, cursing, fighting, spray painting and vandalizing and establishes a curfew that forbids teenagers to be on the streets from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. MT daily. Police will also be allowed to break up assemblies of three or more people.

The bylaw reads: "No person shall be a member of the assembly of three or more persons in any public place where a peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe the assembly will disturb the peace of the neighbourhood …"

The reaction to Taber's new rules was swift and, in many cases, not so favourable. Duane Bratt, the chair of Mount Royal University's department of policy studies, wondered if the three-or-more-persons bylaw could be applied to a garage sale. He said his favourite Taber bylaw had to do with swearing and what constituted a bad word.

"It's like the George Carlin skit, the seven words you can't say [on television]," Mr. Bratt offered. "What the – I was going to say hell – is going on in Taber?"

Mayor Henk De Vlieger was quoted in the Lethbridge Herald as saying, "I'm not saying this thing is perfect, but I think we should give it a chance and try it out … we might make some adjustments, but let's see how it works."

Calls to the mayor on Tuesday were referred to town council assistant and chief administration officer Kerry Van Ham, who did not return a message left by The Globe and Mail.

There has already been talk that the bylaws are unconstitutional and violate the freedom to assemble and speech. That said, there are bylaws in cities, such as Calgary, that prohibit anyone from making "any noise which disturbs or annoys a person, including any loud outcry, clamour, shouting, movement, music or activity."

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Whether the news rules will stay in place for Taber's 8,100 residents could be a matter bound for court.

"From a legal perspective, there are so many holes in this," Mr. Bratt said. "I'd like to know what caused [Taber's town council] to do this? They're the laughing stock of the country."

Just don't laugh too loudly if you are in Taber, and no spitting. It could end up costing you a fine or two.

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About the Author
Sports writer

Allan Maki is a national news reporter and sports writer based in Calgary. He joined the Globe and Mail in 1997 with an extensive sports background having covered Stanley Cup finals, the Grey Cup, Summer and Winter Olympics, the 1980 Miracle on Ice, the 1989 Super Bowl riot and the 1989 earthquake World Series. More

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