Rick Pauls wants the kids off his streets. As the mayor of Killarney, Man., he’s trying to pass a bylaw that would fine parents $250 when children ages 17 and under are caught outside after 1 a.m. “It’s not that we have a big crime problem,” he says. “We just have some youngsters out to all hours of the night disturbing the peace.”
Pauls says youths are climbing on cars, damaging rooftops, and throwing park benches into lakes, and that they escape too quickly for police. He blames the situation on a society that has gotten too soft. “Today in school you can’t fail a kid because you might hurt their feelings. You don’t try out for little league anymore, everybody gets on the team,” he says. “In life there’s winners, there’s losers and there’s consequences for your actions. It’s time that as a society we start instilling those values again.”
But curfews are controversial, and likely beyond the power of the mayor to implement. In 2007, one was thrown out in Thompson, Man., after a resident sued the city. Attempts at enacting curfews in Quebec and New Brunswick met with similar results. Lawyer Ron Dearman fought the town in the Thompson lawsuit. He says the Killarney curfew “violates the Charter, violates the Constitution of Canada and it also violates the Municipal Act of Manitoba.”
Dearman says curfews go beyond a municipality’s legal jurisdiction and pose unreasonable limits on children’s rights. He also says they often target the wrong people. “My son worked and his work hours often meant that he’d be out after the curfew hour or before the curfew ended,” he says. “So every time he was out of the house he would have been subject to detention and arrest.” Dearman says the only way to reduce crime is to hire more police, and not burden them with worrying about what kids are up to after dark. Otherwise, all you’re going to do is “saddle the police with a babysitting role.”
Pauls hopes to have the bylaw in effect by Oct. 1. To date no Canadian town has managed to keep a curfew when challenged.