Fri. January 8


The War on Fun: Canadian Edition

Abby W. Schachter Abby W. Schachter


Oy, Canada!

It seems our neighbor to the north has decided that one of its greatest national virtues—a passion and talent for ice hockey—is too risky for children.

On New Year’s Eve, a couple living in North Edmonton, Alberta were putting the finishing touches on their homemade ice rink on the pond behind their house, when a cop showed up to fine them $100 for modifying the “land in a way likely to cause injury.” Their crime?  Clearing off the snow and hooking up a hose from their house to the pond to smooth out the top so that their kids could skate.

The mom, Morgann Tomlinson was really angry. “There were no boards, no lights, there wasn’t even a net,” says Tomlinson.

I grew up where you shoveled off a rink and all the kids just came. They brought their sticks, they brought their gloves and a good old hockey game broke out. . . . Now you can’t even shovel off a rink? I don’t understand it. This is Canada.

She’s right. It is Canada, but it isn’t the same Canada that she or I, who was born and raised in Montreal, grew up in. And her experience with overbearing, interfering government isn’t unique.

Outside Toronto, in December, the town council of Markham decided to ban skating on a local pond. “Urbanization and environmental changes related to significant climate change, as well as increased salt usage impacts salt formation on the pond,” said the staff report. “Circumstances today are not the same as 20 years ago. Public safety is paramount for the city of Markham.”

In Ajax, Ontario, a family was facing a possible $25,000 fine for having erected so-called “unsightly” boards in their front yard hockey rink. And east of Calgary, Alberta, in the town of Chestermere, a community bid to create (and fully insure) a local pond hockey league was stalled when the municipal council intervened, citing “liability” issues.

And last year there was a sweet protest music video by Laura Cole about Hamilton, Ontario’s ban on tobogganing.

You can’t toboggan in the Hammer anymore

You’re not supposed to run and play.

You can’t go make your own fun in the great outdoors, so just give up and stay inside all day.

National Post columnist Joe O’Connor is distraught about fears of lawsuits ruining childhood fun. Pond hockey, he wrote, “fosters teamwork, self-confidence and, as herd animals, teaches us where we fit in.” O’Connor continued,

Most joyfully, it gives kids that experience (and to know it, is to never forget it) of gliding around on a patch of ice without parents, coaches, referees—or worse—liability-spooked bylaw enforcers squashing the fun, because you-name-it-municipality is petrified of being sued.

O’Connor’s fears are justified, but thankfully, there is another Canadian virtue rearing its head in response to the war on fun: Fierce independence.

Tomlinson is taking her ticket to provincial court next month and the folks in Chestermere have set up multiple hockey rinks on their pond in spite of the town council’s fears. Kids are probably out there playing right now.

Such reactions to overbearing government are always heartening. We tend to become complacent about our liberties and our rights until something happens to push us out of our inertia and find a way to speak out.

In Cole’s case she took to the airwaves to sing out, highlighting what more and more parents, north and south of the border should do: Stand up for their right to parent and for their kids to have freedom and fun.

It wasn’t long before I had to stand my moral ground

Slid down that big old hill anyway.

This is Canada!

Let us toboggan

Our choice is our free will

This is Canada!

Let us toboggan

We choose to slide downhill.