Vague Laws Are Bad Laws

MP Laurel Collins, of the New Democratic Party, wants to make ‘coercive control’ illegal, especially, it seems, as applied to romantic ‘partners’, former or current. But, who knows, it could apply to anyone ‘coercing’ anyone else to do anything. For, as the article states:

Collins’s bill does not define what what controlling or coercive conduct is.

This is, to put it mildly, is a big problem. Law, as an ‘ordinance of reason, for the common good’ should be as clear and precise as possible, in what it forbids, or permits, so we all know when we are within its boundaries, and not left to the vagaries and whims of judges and the police.

Undefined as it be, the proposed legislation, with the full force of federal law, seeks to amend the Criminal Code to make it an offence in cases where it is “expected to have a significant impact on that person.”

Hmm. A ‘significant impact’. Who gets to define that? And what of ‘coercive control’, which is a rather wide spectrum?

Might it imply going in a huff, and not talking to another? Or raising one’s voice? Deliberately cooking bad meals, or not preparing them at all? Taking the car when someone else wants to use it?  Insisting on one’s presence, or non-presence, at home or a family event? What of – gasp! – withholding intimacy or sex, and relegating someone to the couch, proverbial or otherwise?

Finally, what are we to say of traditional one income families? Is not that a power imbalance, with implicit ‘coercive control’ a priori?

As Lisa Hepfner, who “serves as the parliamentary sectary for Women and Gender Equality Minister Marci Ien” (yes, I know) admitted,

Gathering evidence in these cases is a significant challenge for police and prosecutors. 

You don’t say?

The State has no place in the intimacy of relationships – or, to quote unwittingly Trudeau Senior, ‘in the bedrooms of the nation’, even if he meant something quite different by his quip. Conjugal love is by its very nature a life-long give-and-take, often an emotional roller-coaster ride, with the arguments, fights and the conciliations. And unleashing all the executive power into such private domains is a recipe for disaster, government apparatchiks – police, social workers, judges, psychiatrists and all the rest of them – intruding where they do not belong.

It’s always bad when love goes awry – corruptio optimi pessima, as the poet Juvenal put it: The corruption of the best is the worst. And what is better than human love, where there should be no coercion, for love’s labour is sweet and amiable and, as the first Pope reminded us, it love which covers a multitude of sins.

Just so, this law seems to be aimed at ‘ex-spouses’ (or partners), who have a tendency to want to get back together, or just get back at the other, and that can get weird and abusive. However, if a crime has been committed – stalking, theft, threats, assault and so on – let the alleged perpetrator be charged with the laws already on the books, and not invent nebulous new ones, with the implacable hand of the state reaching into the very affairs of the human heart.