A fishing trip that turned sour
It’s a bad day when we don’t learn something new. Everyday is a new experience, and some days are an experience we could probably do without, and just as soon forget. Such was my experience of March 7.
On that day I decided to take in a day fishing with my son, John, and his friend, Reg, on Rattling Brook Pond, just off the Ville Marie Road, or Route 202, which runs from Long Harbour road to the Argentia highway. We parked our vehicles on the west side of the road and made sure they were as far off the road as possible so as not to impede the normal flow of traffic.
It was a beautiful sunny day and a pleasure to be out enjoying the best that nature has to offer. Unfortunately, our enjoyment was short-lived.
Just after lunch, around 1 p.m., John drove out on the snowmobile to check on my small dog in my truck and to let it out for a run and so on, only to discover that our vehicles had been towed away. I could think of no legal reason for the vehicles to be towed, as they were not impeding the normal movement of traffic.
Of course, we had our cellphones with us, and these were on all the time. A quick call to the RCMP in Whitbourne revealed that our vehicles were towed away to accommodate the movement of a wide load for the Vale site.
Further investigation revealed that a towing company in Dunville had been authorized to tow the vehicles by provincial highway enforcement officers, in collusion with, and on behalf of, the company contracted by Vale. Something else to bear in mind here is that these vehicles were locked in gear and locked up as well. Both vehicles sustained damage during the move.
To put it mildly, I was mystified as to why highway enforcement officials would go ahead and authorize towing the vehicles without any effort being made to contact the owners. Don’t forget, we were on a pond which you can actually see from the road, and only five minutes away.
If you think that is weird, think about this: not only did highway enforcement personnel not try to contact us after verifying ownership and address, but they took our private, personal information (names and address, and all particulars of the vehicles) and gave it to the contracting company to use as they saw fit.
If this is not a case of blatant invasion of privacy, I would like to know what is. If they are allowed, with impunity, to do this for the contracting company, then there is no reason why any member of the general public cannot pursue the same avenue to obtain private information relating to any licence plate number, and use that information for whatever devious means he/she so wishes.
The more I inquired into to this fiasco the more angry it made me. I was first told that highway enforcement personnel had tried to contact us to have the vehicles moved. They soon backtracked on that when I told them that a check of their own cell phone records would show that they did not try to call either of us.
I then contacted Government Service Minister Harry Harding, and would you believe that he confirmed that highwey enforcement officers routinely pass on personal information on motor vehicles and their owners to companies in these types of situations.
My main reason for contacting Harding in the first place was to seek compensation for damages to my vehicle, since as far as I am concerned the highway enforcement officeres are directly responsible for the damage incurred, since they are the ones who authorized the tow, before exhausting all efforts to contact the owners.
They ordered the tow, so they have to accept the responsibility. It turns out that there is more than just the inconsiderate towing of the vehicles, now we have breach of privacy by a government department, that is condoned by Minister Harding.
Mr. Harding and his subordinates, however, seem to think that highways enforcement personnel did nothing wrong, and the towing company is to blame for the damages. I also contacted my MHA, Jerome Kennedy, on this, and his only response was “if you think your privacy was violated, seek legal advice.”
On a final note, if there is a lawyer out there who feels there is a legal pursuit here on the privacy issue, feel free to contact me.
Ray Hynes Bristol’s Hope