July 30, 2011 - Traffic

Terms cont'd…
The Highway Traffic Act was first issued in 1923. Notice that it was not call the Highway Act or the Highway Usage Act. The crafters of this act identified it as an act that was specifically about Traffic. So what does the term traffic mean? Well, that depends on the age of the law dictionary.

In Black's Law Dictionary 2nd edition (1910) we find:
TRAFFIC. Commerce; trade; dealings in merchandise, bills, money, and the like. (Black's 3rd edition was published in 1933)

In Bouvier's Law Dictionary 1856 we read:
TRAFFIC. Commerce, trade, sale or exchange of merchandise, bills, money and the like…

Noah Webster's 1906 American Dictionary defines Traffic as:
n. 1. trade, commerce, either by barter or by buying and selling…
v. 1. to trade, to pass goods and commodities from one person to another for an equivalent in goods or money… to carry on commerce.

Was the 1923 intent of the Highway Traffic Act really about the commercial use of the people's highways by private and public vehicles?

In Black's 8th (2004) and 9th (2009) we find these definitions:
traffic,n.1. Commerce; trade; the sale or exchange of such things as merchandise, bills, and money... 4. The passing to and fro of people, animals, vehicles, and vessels along a transportation route.
traffic,vb. To trade or deal in (goods, esp. illicit drugs or other contraband)
 (emphasis mine in each of the definitions above)

We have a problem! The meaning in the modern dictionaries has been expanded from what was clearly trade and commerce in the older editions to a definition that now adds the "passing to and fro of people." This means that Acts written earlier, which were to address only issues of commerce and trade, are now infringing upon our inalienable right to travel. This is WRONG! UNJUST and UNLAWFUL! And yet our courts are ruling in this way. 

The Supreme Court of Canada citing Halsbury’s Laws, vol. 36, 3rd ed., 1961, at p. 392 in the case law Martin v. Chapman, [1983] 1 S.C.R. 365 gives this ruling:

“Words are primarily to be construed in their ordinary meaning or common or popular sense, and as they would have been generally understood the day after the statute was passed, unless such a construction would lead to manifest and gross absurdity, or unless the context requires some special or particular meaning to be given to the words.” (emphasis mine)

This means we should use the definitions that were used when the Act was written. The language of Law ought not change—ever. To allow the meaning of legal terms to change is an affront to all that is just and results in the slow erosion of our rights.  Don't let them do this!

"He who does not assert his rights has none." a maxim of law.


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