The War on Fun: Canadian Edition

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.


  • valjean

    Hmmm, so one can be fined $C100 for “modifying the ‘land in a way likely to cause injury'”? Note to Canadian authorities: the real world causes injury — without much fussing over “modification”. On my property (nearly within sight of the US/Canada border) we have 10-story high Douglas Firs that — if nature caught a fancy to “cause injury” — could crush you like a roach. With your environment and climate I suspect your “land” might be similarly menacing.

    I suppose by your logic you’ll soon be writing summons to Mother Nature but I doubt you’ll get much response. We nasty humans have much deeper pockets.

  • Abu Nudnik

    As a kid in Edmonton, my dad wired lights in the back yard where we’d play football all night. He put in three skating rinks there the winter before he died: one in the side for hockey, a big one in the back, and a third, tiny one, where my mom could skate with my newborn sister in her arms. Fond memories. The idea of a policeman going back there would never have occurred to anyone. We lived and minded our business.

  • frankie514

    Let us hear from joni mitchell (if she is well enough…I hope she is) or neil young, or the other Canadians who have prospered! They were advocates for the downtrodden, weren’t they?

  • teapartydoc

    The more I read stuff like this the more OK I am with radical ways of stopping it.

  • Jeremy Klein

    Well they voted for’em. Let them elect some limited-gov’t enthusiast if they don’t like the nanny state.

  • Deja Voodoo

    National Post columnist Joe O’Connor “… as herd
    Not me, pally. I’m with the pack.

    • werewife

      Some of us go full lupine on this one!

  • Pingback: Canada declares war on… hockey?!()

  • skeets11

    Elephants are also herd animals. Would not want to get them angry!

  • Jim Sweet

    So Monty Python’s Lumberjack Song was actually prophecy….

  • Dr Why

    Not to be a nut or anything, but life is much easier for despots when the people are sissified.