On teen curfews

Oh, here we go again: another small-town mayor — this time it’s Rick Pauls of Killarney, Manitoba — trying to impose a curfew on kids out after 1 AM. I’ve seen things like this come up again and again since I was a teenager; I’ve never understood this municipal obsession with teen curfews.

They’re unconstitutional, for one thing: discrimination on the basis of age is just as much a no-no under the Charter as race, religion or sex. Imagine the uproar if a mayor were to impose a curfew on women, aboriginals or Catholics. Even though curtailing the Charter rights of children does not seem to be the career-limiting move it ought to be, no teen curfew by-law has ever survived a Charter challenge. It also turns out that curfews are beyond a municipality’s purview, but in my experience that’s never been something that stopped municipal councils before.

I live in a small town, and can say that the problem at three in the morning is as much drunks leaving the bars as it is teens joyriding on ATVs. For some reason, though, I never see small towns trying to close the bars or ban alcohol (unless, for example, they’re dry reserves or Mennonite communities).

Town councils are generally composed of older members of the community; teen curfews come from a certain “get off my lawn”/“kids these days” mindset, in which teenagers are the Other, objectivized as the Problem. Conveniently, they’re an Other that can’t vote — and, in the case of small towns, an Other that can’t wait to get the fuck out of there. For some strange reason.

And then town leaders wonder why their kids move away and don’t come back.