Civic Duty

About 30 years ago, I happened to be standing in front of a window at a friend’s place when I saw a car leaving a driveway across the street back out, cross the street and crash into the driver’s door of my car. I went outside, got insurance particulars, made arrangements for a tow truck, then went about reporting the incident and getting my car repaired.

About six months later, a police officer showed up at my door with a subpoena for me to appear at the trial of the driver of the car on a charge of careless driving. It was more than a little inconvenient because I had to travel from Owen Sound to London and hang around for most of the day when all was said and done, but there was really no choice so I didn’t think (or grumble) much about it.

One of the people I’m currently acting for is charged with a vehicle-related offence. The vehicle in question is in storage at a local repair center. I called up to get certain particulars about the condition of the vehicle and the name of the tow truck driver that brought it in. Not only could I not get any of the information I was seeking, but I was advised (on the second call) that there had been a “staff meeting” to discuss it and “everyone agreed they didn’t want to get involved“.

Apart from the reality that this “agreement” is arguably an obstruction of justice, it’s also a sad commentary on the significance accorded by (certain) citizens to their obligations to civic duty.

In extreme cases, like the gang violence in Toronto, perhaps reticence for personal safety is justifiable. But I just hope those guys at the garage get a taste of the problem sometime when they need a witness to something that happened to them and those same witnesses have a “staff meeting”.

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