De minimis non curat lex: The law does not concern itself with trifles.
This Latin expression has guided the proceedings of courts around the globe since antiquity. It means that the courts should not entertain trivial matters, and directs the court to allocate their resources to major matters of human consequence to maintain the public’s confidence in the administration of justice.
In a number of instances in our community, Edmonton Police Service and the city’s bylaw enforcement have issued tickets on small matters.
My spouse and I were pulled over on 97 Street for having an aftermarket red LED in our vehicle’s back licence plate lamp. We were detained, documented, and issued a $75 ticket.
I was mad about the ticket, but when I spoke with others in this community, learned I wasn’t the only one who had received tickets for something trivial. These tickets included substantially greater breaches of common human dignity and even appeared to breach the letter and spirit of the Charter.
Magan Muhumed had just finished volunteering with youth at OSCAR, a community centre on 111 Ave, and was crossing the street in the intersection of 111 Ave and 93 St. A police cruiser pulled up and officers detained him, demanding identification and issuing a ticket for jaywalking.
“I impeded no traffic, I crossed the road in an intersection. It made me very disappointed with the police. I thought they could have used their time on some other thing,” said Muhumed.
Muhumed said the city has many other crimes and incidents that need to be investigated and resolved (like homicides) rather than issuing tickets for something as minor as jaywalking.
“They treated me in a way that I felt was improper and unprofessional, especially with all those F-words towards me,” said Muhumed. “Considering the fact that I crossed the street in a legal way, I felt that I was detained in an illegal, unlawful way. I couldn’t leave, I couldn’t just walk away at that time; they insisted that I give them my personal information, they were insisting [I give] a driver’s licence, an ID.”
Jaywalking requires that a pedestrian be crossing or attempting to cross a street anywhere other than a crosswalk, which is located at every intersection unless specifically prohibited. Crosswalks continue a line from the edge of the sidewalk across the street where pedestrians are allowed to cross and motorists must yield.
Without an offence, police have no legal grounds to stop someone, let alone issue a ticket. The issuing of the ticket calls into question Muhumed’s equality rights as well as those of search, detention, and security of the person.
While the Crown withdrew the ticket, Muhumed intends to file a police act complaint with respect to this incident, and in due course the officers will explain their actions to the public.
Another example was when city bylaw enforcement issued a ticket to Cora and Bruce Shaw. Likely, scavengers had cut open their trash bags and scattered the contents down the alley. Cora and Bruce cleaned it up the next day, but nonetheless got both a warning and a ticket in the mail dated a day apart.
“This just happened to be the week where we had above normal temperatures, so people were rifling through the garbage, not just ours, but everybody’s. Unfortunately for us, we also had a flood in our basement and that’s what this garbage was: the mouldy stuff that got pulled out of the basement because of the water that had escaped,” said Cora.
Bruce added, “In addition to that garbage, Cora is a dialysis patient. Everyday we go through four or five large bags, two feet by one foot of fluid, and so after a week, that piles up to a lot of bags.”
Cora has suggestions for use of city resources.“Let’s deal with derelict buildings, let’s deal with problem properties, let’s deal with businesses that are sitting empty and looking more and more derelict as time goes on.”
These tickets are an example of an enforcement culture run amok, pursuing trivialities that appear to violate the Charter, disregard human decency, and fail to accommodate legitimate medical concerns. It is squandering enforcement resources in a neighbourhood that desperately needs justice to be served in many unresolved incidents.
Featured Image: Magan Muhumed (pictured) was issued a ticket for jaywalking. | Adam Millie