Watch out for anybody who tells you they know â€œthe law.â€
Whether itâ€™s a lawyer who confidently assures you that a particular court application is a â€œslam dunkâ€ or a misinformed third-hand misinterpretation of a newspaper article, â€œthe lawâ€ is really only a matter of opinion of how we should govern the relationships between ourselves.
Whether itâ€™s the Parliament in Ottawa, the Legislature in Victoria, or the Township of Langley, all of them make laws â€“ and all of those laws are just opinions about how we might be able to get along.
This simple idea is based on the notion, which I believe unfortunately has a lot of merit, that if we donâ€™t have laws, we will end up killing each other on the streets.
The courts have their own opinions about what the laws mean, and if you read the opinions carefully, you will find that sometimes you will agree with them â€“ and sometimes you will not.
There are people who are now desperately demanding that â€œthe lawâ€ be used to stop the Coulter Berry building. Yet the Court of Appeal may have a different opinion about â€œthe law.â€ That court might just decide that the Supreme Courtâ€™s opinion was wrong.
In that case, â€œthe lawâ€ will be on the side of the Township when they first approved the three-storey building. Will these same people then continue to be staunch defenders of â€œthe law?â€
The Supreme Court decision did say that the Township had the authority to do what it did. The Township set aside its own previous opinions about what kind of buildings would fit into Fort Langley in favour of what it thought was a better opinion: that the unique and high-quality Coulter Berry building would be a good addition to Fort Langley.
The Supreme Court actually confirmed that the Township had the right and the authority to do it, but said the Township just followed the wrong procedure (the Heritage Permit Alteration process, rather than the Rezoning process).
So watch out for the law â€“ itâ€™s a sneaky, slippery thing. The legal stick youâ€™re beating your neighbour over the head with today can turn into a snake and bite you tomorrow.
Peter Kravchuke, Langley