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Let kids be kids. Photo: CC, flicker, William Warby.

Fines, jail time, and demeanours, oh my!

Articles recently circulating on Facebook have highlighted the outrageous and downright ridiculous by-laws that restrict the age of trick-or-treaters.

In Chesapeake, Virginia, the by-law states that those found trick-or-treating over the age of 12 could face a fine from $25 to $100 and may face up to six months in jail. Bathurst, New Brunswick introduced their by-law in 2005, banning trick-or-treaters over the age of 16 (it was previously 14, but was changed in 2017). If caught, guilty parties could face up to a $200 fine. So far Bathurst is the only town in Canada with this sort of restriction—and it should stay that way.

In a CTV interview, Bathurst’s Deputy Mayor justified the original restriction, saying that older children were supposedly taking candy from the younger kids. Issues like this should be handled by parents and if necessary, the police, but there shouldn’t be a law painting all teenagers as candy-stealing hooligans.

Although the original regulation was hardly ever used, the revision and reinforcement of this law in 2017 was largely due to older citizens not wanting teenagers to come to their doors so late into the night.

There’s this radical convention that exists to help these older citizens out—it’s called turning out the porch light. The kind of people that are complaining about this, are probably also the citizens that complain about kids these days growing up too fast. This is why your grandkids don’t visit, Jean.  

I remember the last time I ever went trick-or-treating. It was either grade 9 or 10. This neighbour of mine started yelling at me and my friend, saying she was saving the candy for the kids of the neighbourhood, and that we weren’t kids. My friend has a neurobehavioral condition, and is on the autism spectrum, but we had both been super excited to go out one last time—it was a tradition. At that age, you’re still trying to figure out who you are, and who you want to be. It’s hard enough growing up and saying goodbye to childhood, without someone yelling at you that you’re not a kid anymore. Let alone, getting arrested, facing a fine, or even jail time for it.

Most kids naturally stop trick-or-treating when they reach a certain age. Parents should also be able to set the age limit for their kids based on what’s appropriate to their child. These conventions have existed for many years, and Bathurst overstepped by trying to impose restrictions on holiday activities. Mischief does happen, but the mischief-makers should be the ones punished, not the sophomore with an affinity for Swedish Berries. There’s a lot worse that kids could be doing on Halloween night than trick-or-treating with their friends.

Kids should be kids for however long they need, not however long the city determines. Mischief and trouble-makers should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and not treated as the rule. It’s honestly insulting that the city assumes all teenagers are up to no good, one could even call it spooky.