Meghan Booth & Hasheel Lodhia
McMaster Debating Society
Q: Is a strict curfew an acceptable response to the London riots?
M: In light of recent events, namely at Fanshawe College in London this past weekend, the idea of a curfew on minors has been put on the table as a means of curbing delinquent behaviour. This, though, presents the problem of how a curfew would be implemented. Any child under the age of 18 would have to be accompanied by an adult outside of the home between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. This is on the basis that much of the petty crimes, vandalism and unwelcome loitering are committed by minors. In addition to society not being burdened by despondent youth, there would likely be positive externalities that would occur as a result of a curfew. With less time spent in parks and in front of the local Tim Hortons, more focus would be put towards things like homework. Furthermore, families would be able to enjoy more time together; building stronger bonds between parent and child paves the way for more responsibility and accountability in our youth. For these reasons, and many more, a curfew is an idea that would prove to be beneficial to youth themselves and to society in the long run.
H: The main reason behind the curfew laws in London is to set an example of bad behaviour. Perhaps curfews might do those students some good at this point, but it doesn’t make sense to impose it over all of Ontario, essentially punishing every individual for the acts of a few. This has never happened before, and never will. Besides, imposing a curfew isn’t in any way going to reduce the amount of crime that takes place; it will simply relocate it (in this case, indoors). For the rest of the kids, keeping them indoors every night will only develop their false sense of security. Think of the ‘boy in the bubble’ scenario. Suddenly turning ‘legal,’ they will be exposed to public nightlife too quickly. Being isolated from the entire world, including peers, is bound to lead to psychological problems later on in life. The burden of proof lies on you to show exactly why keeping kids in the dark will be beneficial for them or for society.
M: While I see your point about the ‘boy in the bubble’ issue, I think the fact that we abolished Grade 13 in 2005 demonstrates the regard the government has for rushed exposure to adult life, which is none. A curfew is furthermore not indicative of a false sense of security; if being at home with your family, or at a friend’s house with their family, is a ‘false’ security, then I don’t know what real security is. A curfew will not eliminate petty crime and vandalism, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Kids crave stability and accountability, which can surely be better provided if they are in a home setting. With teachers having their classroom hours scaled back more and more, kids are left to their own devices. As for this type of incident not having happened before, this may be an isolated event in terms of its scale, but broken bottles, vandalism and general debauchery is a drop in the bucket of youth acting out. If anything, a curfew is an option to be explored seriously. The permanence of it can be left up to its level of success.
H: I still don’t understand how forcing kids to stay indoors will solve anything. Someone who wants to vandalize property will just do so in hiding or during the day when no one is looking. This “general debauchery” you speak of isn’t going to suddenly stop when you take away the right to leave any sort of shelter at night time. In fact, it will probably give kids another reason to get fake IDs, which means even more kids going out into the danger of this so called “cover of the night.” If not, then they’ll just have more house parties, more internet crime and of course more sex (unprotected, of course). Some children who spend their evenings outside their home have a reason for doing so. They could be living with abusive families or need to work in the evenings to pay for their education. Should we be forcing these kids to stay indoors? All of us have a right to a standard of living that is adequate for the health and well-being of ourselves and our families. This ‘solution’ doesn’t solve anything. What you are proposing is a cop-out for the government to actually spend any real effort on controlling crime on our streets. By moving everything indoors, where the government has no real jurisdiction, the police are now the ones to say “not in my backyard.”
M: My opponent highlights the possible benefits of a provincial curfew. While the proposed curfew doesn’t claim to eliminate crimes and shenanigans committed by youth, it is an idea with no immediate foreseeable downside. Kids getting fake IDs and trying to get into bars may happen, but most of the time they are caught and turned away anyways (provided the bar isn’t crooked in its dealings). As for unprotected sex, that’s an educational thing. It’s the province’s responsibility, as well as parents at home, to preach the benefits of either protected sex or abstinence. Kids are less likely have sex if parents are upstairs. Furthermore, it’s not about forcing kids to stay indoors; it’s about exploring alternatives for letting kids with boundless energy loose with nothing constructive to do. As you also pointed out, there is the issue of kids with abusive families. If a kid has to spend more time at home because of legal constraints like a curfew, then they will be more likely to speak up and want to change their situation. Lastly, if you’re proposing that we do not enforce a curfew because there’s no governmental jurisdiction over what happens in the home and that we should just let kids roam the streets in the night like hoodlums, then I say that that is pure baloney. For these reasons, I resolve that a curfew on minors would likely be a beneficial thing for society if it was able to be enforced.
H: This motion is unconstitutional, plain and simple. Everyone has the right to paid work, mobility and other essential freedoms. You mention that parents should be responsible for preaching values. I agree! They should also be responsible for keeping their own kids in line. I know mine did. Once again, you assume that all kids are good for nothing “hoodlums” with “nothing constructive to do.” I for one remember my evenings filled with debate club, band practice and Kumon (thanks, Mom), not filled with running around with boundless energy, hollering in Timmies parking lots, spray painting nearby dogs and pushing over old people. The only message we will be sending out to these kids is, “You cannot be trusted as individuals in society.” Yes, there are certain restrictions we put on underage children and youth such as driving, drinking and voting, but you are going one step too far. We don’t simply ‘experiment’ with drastic regulations such as this. You haven’t even mentioned how the government plans on enforcing this. If anything, it will be more money and resources spent on useless measures such as this. This is just another case of the older generation blaming the younger for things that they are completely innocent about. This resolution must not and will not stand.