When first introduced, one might initially question the need for a respectful behaviour bylaw in Invermere. Sounds like something you might see in a new board game: roll the dice, land on ‘pick your policy’ and read the instructional card – “Residents call for a new bylaw regulating how people treat each other. Do you give it first reading to win votes, or do you simply issue a proclamation instead?” 

Ummm . .  . this game is boring.

In truth, such a bylaw that Invermere council is considering may not be so trivial after all, but still, one would think being respectful is part of human nature, so why regulate it? Therein lies the problem: not everyone is respectful. In fact, some people can be downright vicious in their views and comments towards others. Standing outside the Summit Youth Hub with a sign reading, “Hey kids, trannies = terrorists/satanists” is not what you would call amiable. And according to Columbia Valley Pride, some of its committee members have been threatened through social media. 

So maybe a new bylaw is necessary. But like councillor Gerry Taft said, it may not have much effect since you can’t legislate respect. Establishing more rainbow crosswalks may (or may not) create more tolerance and respect, but more must be done to tone down all this hate. Perhaps new signs and banners would help get the point across that we are all human beings despite how we choose to identify ourselves.

If council does enact such a policy, it will be very interesting to see how people’s behaviour is regulated and how enforcement plays out. 

Many towns and cities in B.C. have established a ‘good neighbour bylaw’ that encourages good relationships among residents by regulating everything from noise to being a nuisance. Yes, there are a few people out there who get off on being lousy neighbours; just ask any bylaw enforcement officer.

There is one documented case in the South Okanagan where a man harassed his neighbours for years via noise, erecting cameras, and generally being as irritating as possible. Police were involved on several occasions, and in one instance, a man couldn’t take the harassment any longer and assaulted the old fellow. 

In another neighbourhood across town, a senior couple put up fake cameras to deter thieves, but in the end their neighbour accused them of spying on her, which led to a big row and a story in the local newspaper. 

A respectful behaviour bylaw might not be a bad idea; at least it would give bylaw officers the authority to act if someone is being a pain in the butt or downright hateful. At the same time, council must be careful not to come off like ‘big brother’ who is watching everyone to ensure they behave like good little boys and girls.

Lyonel Doherty, editor