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A land of laws and a land of outlaws

Ignoring petty crimes and white-collar scofflaws is creating an environment for public corruption and serious criminal activity
land of laws

It is against the law to stay overnight in municipal parks or on government grounds, yet scores of people have camped out on the lawns of the Victoria courthouse for months, despite an appeal to the B.C Supreme Court. Scores more illegally squat in Stanley Park, in city parks along Calgary’s Bow River and in many other Canadian cities.

AirBnB rentals are not allowed under municipal bylaws, and overnight rentals are outlawed in the majority of condominium and rental buildings. Yet, there are at least 4,000 AirBnB rentals in the city Vancouver alone and tens of thousands more across Canada.

The selling of marijuana without a permit is a crime in Canada, but illegal marijuana storefronts have sprouted across the country, most evident in Vancouver and Victoria, which have expressly written bylaws to outlaw them.

Bait-and-switch advertising is illegal in Canada, yet it is a common practice among the largest condominium developers. The lowest-price studios and one-bedrooms in new projects are routinely presold to insiders but still loudly marketed to other buyers as still available,

Since 2002, federal law requires real estate agents to identify their clients, verify where their money is coming from and report suspicious or large cash transactions to a federal watchdog. But a Canadian Press investigation found that many real estate companies are ignoring the regulations, apparently with impunity.

We have become a land of laws and a land of outlaws.

Changing this require lawmakers to enforce the rules already in place, or to face the ugly consequences.

In environments where disorderly behaviour goes unchecked – where drug dealers visibly ply their trade, squatters take over public parks or property agents launder money – more serious crime will flourish.

It takes political courage to stand against the special interest groups who always cite good reasons to break the law. But it is societal suicide to not stop the rot before it spreads.

Canada is not some third-world backwater where crime and graft are expected or condoned. Canada has the best reputation among the 20 top countries, according to the Reputation Institute (yes, there really is such a body.) Canada is also recognized as the ninth least corrupt nation in the world, just ahead of Germany and Great Britain, in a global survey this year.

We didn’t get this good by allowing petty crimes to flourish or by turning a blind eye to white-collar scofflaws. It is time to make the laws equal for everyone or, eventually, everyone will just ignore them.