A fish­ing trip that turned sour


Dear edi­tor,

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

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