Building a community of tattlers

Yesterday I found in my mailbox a Noise By-law Notice of Inspection from the City of Waterloo regarding persistent barking from my dog.  No fine was issued; I’ve been asked to “mitigate noise from barking dog.”

Will you shut up!? You’re getting me into trouble!


We are building a better community by prosecuting you.

The complaint is entirely legitimate.  I am aware that my dog barks a lot and I sometimes worry that she disturbs my neighbours. (Indeed, I spoke with one neighbour about it in the past — I invited him to talk to me if ever my dog bothers him.  The cheery fellow said not to worry and that everything’s fine.)

I’m not angry that someone was annoyed by our dog — that’s understandable.  Had the complainant bothered to discuss the matter with me she would have found a very cooperative neighbour who is sympathetic to her plight and eager to resolve the problem collegially.

What angers me is that the complainant did not bother to talk to me first.  Rather, she chose to force me into submission via by-law enforcement — a tool best used as a last resort, not a first line of defense.

Receiving an anonymous complaint from the City on behalf of a neighbour is an upsetting experience.  Essentially, a neighbour is telling me, “You are so beyond reason and compromise that I cannot deal with you directly, or even reveal myself to you for fear of retribution.  You are a parasite and you will be treated accordingly.  The only way to get you to behave is by force of law.”

In a bitter irony, the Notice I received from the City bears the tagline, “Building a better community.”  (What does the City hope to achieve with this tagline?  Am I supposed to view this Notice as a community-building experience?)  A better community is built when neighbours resolve their differences with friendly face-to-face discussion, sympathy, and understanding.

Conversely, the community degenerates into enmity and suspicion when a complainant sends goons from City by-law enforcement to do her dirty work while she hides behind a cloak of anonymity.  It’s hard to care for one’s neighbours when one is treated as an enemy by them.

It seems to me that anti-social behaviour such as this is disturbingly common in Waterloo.  But I suppose every suburb is the same.  Back in the 1950s, suburbia used to be about comradery (or so I gather).   These days it’s about forcing people to conform.

I don’t like living in a neighbourhood where my neighbours’ first instinct is to anonymously rat me out to the city, like a bratty child tattling to the teacher.  I prefer it when my neighbours are capable of meeting with me face-to-face, like a mature adult.  But neighbourliness such as that can no longer be found in suburban communities like Waterloo.  I really ought to move out to the country.

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2 Responses to Building a community of tattlers

  1. Pamela says:

    I agree with you completely. The city has gone crazy. I received a call from an inspector because there was a square of ice approximately 4 inches square between the sidewalk and driveway, but mostly on the driveway. Some one complained. I yelled! That was insane, as the sidewalk was shovelled, salted and safe, except for a small four inch section. And in fact the sidewalk belongs to the city and I am not responsible for it at all!

    In addition I was at the Bylaw desk on Wednesday having my annual meltdown due to the student housing bylaw and its “so called” rules. (more insanity). The man at the next wicket was asking for and getting with full cooperation from the city clerk, personal information about at least seven of the houses on his street. He was asking if they were licensed, if they had building permits for renovations, etc. and getting all the answers he asked. The clerk was scanning the computer and gratefully offered all the answers. That was such a violation of privacy and against the privacy laws.

    I am horrified at what this city has become. You cannot legislate bad behaviour.(students) Waterloo is becoming insane, and not the wonderful community that I moved into almost thirty years ago.

    • Gus Gutoski says:

      Hi Pamela. It’s sad that someone ratted you out for a tiny patch of ice. Such a lovely neighbourhood you live in!

      The frustrating thing is that petty by-law enforcement such as this can only be avoided by moving to another city. It’s rarely worth taking the trouble to do that. Most of us have jobs, friends, and family here in Waterloo. All we can do is bend over and pay the suburbia tax.

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