The College of the North Atlantic has banned smoking anywhere on its campuses’ grounds, inside and outside.
Presumably, students and staff will be able to light up and puff away while standing on a public sidewalk at the edge of campus, but if they take a single step to either stand or sit on college property to indulge in the wicked weed, they will be breaking the no-smoking rule.
The ban also applies to the college’s parking lots, which naturally leads libertarians to wonder: will people be denied the right to sit in their own car and have a smoke?
“But your honour,” we can hear a lawyer arguing, “the windows of my client’s vehicle were up, and he was not bothering anyone.”
The college says the new rule is about “health and safety.”
No, it isn’t. It is about telling people what to do, and making them obey. It is about the “Do as I say” culture that has gained ground worldwide, an epic global warming, if you will, to the idea that it is acceptable to curtail personal freedom for people’s own good.
In recent years, the do-as-I-say culture has been widely supported and broadly implemented.
Newfoundlanders have seen it for decades, in national and international opposition to the seal hunt. People who have never been to Newfoundland, and don’t know a thing about the place, demand that sealers do as they say, and stop killing seals.
Never mind the facts. Never mind that there are six million harp seals and they are not endangered. Never mind that slaughtering cows and pigs is just as “cruel” as is killing seals. People’s delicate sensibilities are offended, and therefore the sealers must do as they say.
A court has put a temporary stop to the European Union’s plan to ban seal imports. It provides a small glimmer of hope that the do-as-I-sayers can’t always get their way.
The national campaign to have municipal governments ban the domestic use of pesticides continues unabated, despite its reliance on political arguments — more accurately, “do as I say” — rather than scientific facts.
In a letter to the editor this week, Gideon Forman, executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, argues for the prohibition of “toxic lawn products.”
It is a curious phrase. Perhaps the group is aware, but loathe to admit, that not all domestic pesticides are “toxic.”
Of course, this all depends on which science, or which political slant, you’re inclined to believe. Forman urges the public to “trust” his group — they are, after all, doctors.
Anyone who dares point out the many weaknesses in the do-as-I-say-and-ban-pesticides argument will invariably be told, “But doctors support a ban.”
Well, a significant proportion of Canadian doctors also favour increased privatization of the health-care system. Many also support the implementation of user fees when patients visit their family physician. Are the doctors infallible on these issues, too?
You might think the people who run the College of the North Atlantic would be more enlightened about personal liberty and choice.
Not so with city hall. You wouldn’t expect small-town politicians to direct much intellectual power toward issues of choice, freedom and consistency.
St. John’s city council overwhelmingly favours banning pesticides.
This week, the city belatedly recognized the dangers of hogweed, a viciously poisonous plant that has spread across the country. City staff dug up 92 of the plants and buried them at the Robin Hood Bay landfill.
One of city hall’s top officials said that to prevent the dangerous plants from returning, pesticides must be used.
It is fertile ground for irony and hypocrisy.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org