Emotion clouds government riot reaction

Just because something makes good politics doesn’t necessarily make it good policy.

Just because something makes good politics doesn’t necessarily make it good policy.

Less than a week after a moronic mob engaged in a well-documented rampage through the streets of Vancouver, a lot more normally sane people have made some puzzling decisions.

Among the biggest reactions that deserves some sober reflection is the possibility of ICBC using its facial recognition software to “out” people caught on camera during the riot. This might be wildly popular to a public angry over June 15’s evening of idiocy, but there are serious concerns about the true justness of allowing this to happen.

When privacy and civil rights groups first took issue with ICBC over facial recognition software, the insurers were adamant the technology would only be used to prevent identity theft and licence fraud.

Vancouver police did not immediately take ICBC up on the offer — a court order is needed. But the offer is a dangerous precedent that should worry anyone who believes in the right to publicly protest government policy.

There are far too many loose ends that first need to be addressed, such as who has responsibility for deciding what constitutes video evidence of someone committing an actual crime.

Thousands of people were caught up in what was a public catharsis over what had been an intensely emotional experience for millions of Canucks’ fans. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time does not deserve the kind of brutal shaming or calls for vigilante justice that so quickly flooded Facebook and Twitter.

The riots happened, and people across B.C. are disturbed and ashamed because they did. But we can’t pretend a few, quick public hangings will make things better.

The province was quick to announce it would pay for an intensive task force to prosecute rioters. This might gain political mileage, but we have to question how much bang for the buck taxpayers will get out of this. There is a real cost is on those businesses and individuals who were hurt during the mayhem. They need to be compensated and justice needs to be served.

It’s time to move beyond decisions that echo the immature emotional outbursts that inflicted so many of the Vancouver rioters.

 

 

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