What do a paparazzo and a gas station have in common? Well, if you have been attentive to the news lately, you may know that these refer to two events. Although seemingly different, they have brought about a series of legal questions and discussions back to the table. One is the issue of privacy, relating to some topless pictures of Kate Middleton. On the other hand, we have the issue of workers’ rights after a gas station attendant was killed in Toronto.
In regards to the first issue, we have the question of whether famous people ought to give up their privacy. Does being a celebrity strip you of any rights you may have in terms of keeping your private life… well, private? While I admit that I like to indulge every now and then in celebrity gossip, I do think that some paparazzi go too far, sometimes endangering the lives and safety of celebrities. Recently, a bunch of paparazzi chased down the Biebs until he was forced to call 911. He also got a speeding ticket. Some may argue that he could have pulled over instead of speeding and that the ticket was well deserved. This may or may not be a fair condemnation, especially in the case of someone young feeling physically and perhaps emotionally threatened by paparazzi, whose behaviour can definitely be repugnant.
In terms of legal action, the Royal Family has only been able to use the law of confidence as a legal recourse against invasion of privacy, given the fact that Britain does not have a privacy law per se. Nonetheless, and luckily for the Royal couple, France does recognize invasion of privacy as a criminal and civil offence. While this is a small legal victory for the Royal family (their compensation, if granted, will be a few thousand pounds, which is peanuts for them), it opens up the discussion of whether other countries should adopt similar or even tougher policies.
Why is the “gas and dash” case important? Well, in a city with such a big influx of immigrants, a relevant portion of the population (such as the attendant in the named case) is new to the country and unaware of their rights and responsibilities, which can lead to injustice. In this particular case, a person lost his life because he was not aware of his rights and responsibilities in the workplace. The incident took place last Saturday, September 15, at a gas station in the north of Toronto. An individual filled up his tank with over $100 worth of gas and left without paying. The story turns tragic when the attendant tried to stop the individual who ran over him and dragged him with his SUV. Furthermore, allegations have surfaced regarding the fact that at this and other stations, employees are being docked out of their paycheques for any amount of gas that is stolen. This is illegal!
Surprisingly, however, the government has been proactive and is taking remedial measures to solve this problem. A Private Member’s Bill has been introduced by MPP Mike Colle, which would penalize employers for engaging in such practices. Additionally, a hotline has been set up for employees to anonymously report employers. It has also been proposed that drivers are required to pay for gas before they fill up their tanks.
Measures are being taken to address the issue of workplace safety and of employers abusing their employees; penalties have to be given to employers who engage in illegal practices. However, many employees may fear retaliation from their employers if they report such practices. This is why this hotline is important, as it allows one to anonymously report an employer without being a potential victim of revenge. Although forcing drivers to pay before filling up may diminish the number of such incidents, some say that this is impractical from a consumer point of view. Certainly, gas corporations may be prone to listen to their customers and refuse to enforce this practice.
In any case, these are remedial measures. In my opinion, we must do something more organic that that will eliminate the problem: Free gas for everyone! Sorry, I became delusional for a moment. Education! Education is what I meant to say! As I said before, there are many newcomers to this city and the only way to ensure that their rights are respected is through education. Certainly, many of these people come from places where they have few or no rights; thus, they may be unfamiliar with the concept. Others may fear that if they do not do what their employers ask of them, they may lose their jobs. Perhaps it should be mandatory for all people who come to Canada to take an introductory course on basic rights and responsibilities in the context of employment and, without veering off topic, domestic violence and any other activities that may constitute a right or an obligation within Canadian society. But how are we to fund these educative programs, some may ask. Well, we can take places such as the Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN), and perhaps model from it an organization that is specifically designated to the education of newcomers to Canada.
Some may ask what the benefits of this idea are for Canadian society as a whole. In order to justify making an investment such as this one, there must be some greater gain. Certainly, with the current status of the economy and with the government struggling (is it?) to be fiscally responsible, newcomer education must provide society with a remarkable gain. In response, one could argue that in a fair and democratic society, instances of such abuse are shameful. But this is just part of an ideal. It may come down to empowering people to succeed financially and professionally. If the argument of treating everyone with dignity does not work, then let’s put forward the argument that if the first job a person obtains exposes that person to a hostile and undignified environment, what are the chances that this person may actually succeed professionally? The argument is that professionals stimulate the economy, both directly through employment taxation, and indirectly, via their purchasing power. While this would be the “official” reason to implement educative programs, in reality, our society cannot tolerate this situation. Canadians are known for their fairness and this brings shame to us as a whole.
Facts regarding both cases can found in the following sources:
Higham, Nick, Analysis: The Royal Family’s History of Legal Action. BBC News (14 September 2012). (URL<<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19599899>>).
Freeze, Colin. Gas and Dash Tragedy leads to Calls for Better Employee Safety. The Globe and Mail. Toronto: Published Sunday, Sep. 16 2012. (URL: <<http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/gas-and-dash-tragedy-leads-to-calls-for-better-employee-safety/article4548003/>>)