Three years of battling with the bureaucrats of Jasper about busking and I have finally won! They probably wish they had never harassed me, or put obstacles in my way, and had just sold me the busking permit without fuss three years ago, and the negative attention from around the world would not have come their way.
Busking is the act of playing music in a public place for voluntary donations. Back in 2016, they determined that because of my “non-inclusive beliefs”, I should not have a busking license. Whatever those “non-inclusive beliefs” are (transcript of my video), what has it to do with fiddle music in the streets anyway? Absolutely nothing – but they made it matter, and they shone a light on it all, having had exactly the opposite effect as they anticipated or wanted.
There is a lot of background about this silly saga, which you can find in these various articles:
Busking Permit Denied August 2016
Not Busking August 2016
Tony Hall’s Interventions on the Denial of Busking Permit to Monika Schaefer Aug. 2016
Addressing Town Council on Busking and Thought Policing February 2017
The Jasper Busking Story July 2017
Joyful Resistance October 2017
Fiddle Retreat and an Update on Busking February 2019
On Tuesday the 25th of June 2019, I finally got my busking license. Hallelujah! No fuss, no muss, just signed the form, paid and picked it up. There was, however, a bit of a lead-up to this, and smooth sailing it was not!
In late May I began making inquiries as to the acquisition of the busking permit. I had heard that in 2018 when I was safely tucked away in the gulag in Germany, they abolished all their rules and procedures for applying and auditioning for one of these elusive permits. They had invented (and then broke) all those rules just for me. Rita Hindle, one of the five “judges” on the panel in 2017 bragged to a visitor in 2018 how they had only ever refused to license a single person, and that was Monika Schaefer. To her surprise, he replied, “oh, she is a friend of mine!” ha ha.
At any rate, there were now no more stipulations or procedures, one only needed to go purchase the license.
I went five times to the Habitat for the Arts in the new cultural center/library during posted open hours, before finally on June 5th, I found Marianne Garrah in the building. She told me that the busking licenses were not available yet. “Really? I thought they like to have buskers out there by May-Long weekend. And there have been buskers already.” She replied,
What I’ve been telling people is “just go busk”. Stay off of municipal land for now. Council is still working on getting this “Busking Pilot Project #5” off the ground.
That’s hilarious, I laughed. She agreed that it was very frustrating.
So it was that with her blessing I went out busking during the following days. I assumed I would be contacted when the licenses were available.
On Saturday the 15th of June a bylaw enforcement officer walked over to me, stopped right beside me. I continued my tune. He semi-circled to my other side. I played my tune to the end, then lowered my violin and addressed him. He seemed bothered by the fact that I did not stop immediately when he appeared, but I saw no reason to stop in the middle of a tune. He asked if I had a busking license. I explained that I had tried, but that they were not available yet. Then I asked him if they are now available. He said,
They are always available!
I told him I would get one on Monday, and that now I would continue playing. He asked for my ID, and I said I do not have any on me. Incredulous, he spoke a little louder, “you don’t have any on you!?” No. I then told him,
I am sovereign of my domain, and I do NOT consent to your harassment of me.
At that he recoiled and in a very agitated tone retorted,
oh, we’re going to go that way are we?!
He retreated a few feet, and took out his phone, looking very officious and important, while I merrily played on. Several minutes later he disappeared without a trace.
The next day off I went busking again. On my way downtown I saw the same bylaw officer across the street and when he spotted me, his body literally jerked. I carried on to my busking spot.
A few minutes later the officer walked by s-l-o-w-l-y with his camera held high, filming me the whole while. Evidently he was gathering evidence of my big crime of making music in public. Oh, how frightening!
A few minutes later, a big suburban with (non-flashing) reds-and-blues on top appeared, and out stepped a female officer, ahead of Mr. Bylaw, and over they came and stood right in front of me. Again, I chose to finish my tune before stopping. They exchanged knowing glances, clearly having already discussed my “bad” behavior from the day before.
The female officer was very friendly, and explained there was a problem with busking without a permit. I cordially explained everything to her, about my attempt to acquire the permit, about meeting Marianne Garrah and her telling me that the permits were not yet available but that I could go ahead and busk in the meantime, as long as I stayed off of municipal sidewalks.
She listened attentively, said she would call Marianne Garrah Monday morning, and all was fine. She had no problem with my story. All was good. However, she then carried on that NOW there is still the problem of busking without a permit and that I need to shut it down. I calmly but firmly replied,
No. I am not going to shut it down. I will get my license when they are available, but at this moment I will play my violin, right here, right now.
With that, I raised my bow and began to play. As the two officers retreated she called out,
You’ll be receiving the ticket in the mail!
Two days later on June 18th I had a long telephone conversation with Neil Jones, the manager of bylaw enforcement in Jasper. I learned the names of the two officers whom I had already met in the street: Husan Arafat and Madison Bath. After explaining the whole long story to Jones, he apologized about the misunderstanding and that his officers did not have full information regarding the status of the busking license availability. There would be no ticket in the mail.
Jones also explained that the officers will still be doing their jobs, and that I cannot busk without the license, and if I did, they would have to do their job. The implication of that was clear — they would issue me with a ticket.
I said to Jones,
Lucky for you, it is raining today. No busking in the rain. Tomorrow I am going out of town for a few days. When I return, I will be busking, with or without the permit.
If the licenses are available when I get back, I will get one. If they are not available, I will be busking without one. I have been acting in good faith. I have been trying to give them my money for a license, and have done absolutely nothing wrong. Furthermore, I can tell you that no time nor paper need be wasted on tickets, because I will not pay a single penny for any fine!
I received the email from Marianne Garrah before I even returned to town, subject line Busking is a go this year! with the forms attached and a statement telling me,
I will inform bylaw that we are still printing the passes for buskers but you are licensed!