One Tourist’s Opinion…

One Tourist’s Opinion…

Recently I went on the first vacation I’ve had in almost four years, visiting the beautiful city of Taipei on the island country of Taiwan.  If you’ve never been, I’d recommend going at least once to check it out.  The island itself is a tropical paradise and the city is smack dab in the middle of a beautiful mountainous jungle.  In a word: “Paradise.”  But there’s one thing out of the whole experience I want to address.  On the first day I was there I got a drink with my family at a local bar.

There were two women sitting at the table next to us.  Presumably they worked together as they both had laptops out and were looking over sheets of paper.  I couldn’t understand what they were talking about, but the amazing part is that at one point both of them got up and went to the bathroom, leaving their laptops, phones, purses and jackets at the table.  Everything was completely unattended and anyone could have stolen anything from them in a matter of seconds.  But the incredible thing is that no one did.  People were passing by the table repeatedly, but no one made the attempt.  No one even looked over and seemed to notice that everything was just sitting there.

I noticed this more and more as the days continued.  There were bikes that weren’t locked up and would be there for days on end, but no one would take them.  People would take naps in the local park, but no one would try and take anything from them as they slept.  Amazingly, the urge to steal doesn’t exist over there.  The trip was intended to visit family, my sister and her boyfriend specifically, who had been living there for a little over half a year.  My sister’s boyfriend informed me that there’s basically no crime in Taipei.  No one has the urge to do any of these things.

Now, I’m not saying that Ottawa is a crime-ridden community where everything has to be under lock and key 24/7, but the observation alone speaks for itself.  Compared to us, this one community of a couple thousand people is doing something very right.  I know I’m just a volunteer writer for a local online paper, and I doubt this will make any headway at all, but after observing how one place seems to have it mostly figured out, I feel like I should address a few things that could change here in the Nation’s Capital.

1. Open-liquor laws

These don’t exist over in Taiwan.  You can even go to a local 7-11 and buy premixed shots, and then go outside and drink them right in the street.  Nobody cares over there.  Now, yes, implementing this in Canada will create a few years of people drinking outside all the time and possibly being drunk for a while, but once the novelty wears off it’ll just be a casual thing that people are allowed to do.  Think of it like this:  When you tell children not to run up the slide, what’s the first thing they’re going to do?  Answer: Run up the slide.  As mature as adults claim to think they are, we fall under the same principal.  As soon as we’re not allowed to do something, there’ll be a good handful of us that want to do it.  It’s human nature.  If you take away the rule that says we’re not allowed to do it, suddenly it’s not as taboo as it seems and the risk of getting caught/getting away with it is out the window.

2. Public bikes

Bike thefts happen every year, and that’s not about to change anytime soon.  But imagine if there were rows upon rows of bikes that people could access by swiping a card?  Yes, these already exist downtown, but I’m talking about everywhere in the city: Orleans, Kanata, and everything in between.  There could be a service that comes around and tunes them up when they break down, and it could all be funded by the money that people put into the locking systems in order to have access to them.  The process is simple: It’s free for the first half hour, then you have to pay for every small amount of time that you use it after that.  As soon as you lock the bike back in the clock stops.  Maybe this won’t help solve some of Ottawa’s problems, but maybe it will.  People are the source of problems.  It’s blunt, but it’s true.  Aside from the things we can’t control, everything comes back to what people do and the decisions they make.  But it’s a proven fact that exercise alone helps raise people’s moods and helps them in their daily lives.  Follow me on this:  Picture a gang-banger, any generic kind will do.  Now imagine said  gang-banger had access to a public bike.  Let’s say he only rode it for twenty minutes, thereby not costing him a dime.  Let’s say he did this every day for a couple of months.  Suddenly he starts to feel better about things and the urge to jump and steal from people isn’t as strong in his mind anymore.  I’m not saying this alone would solve crime within Ottawa, but it may be a good thing to consider.

3.  Stuff to look at

What would you rather pass by every day:  the same view of apartments and traffic and stores as far as the eye can see, or the exact same thing but with a mural of something amazing/beautiful to look at?  Let’s face it, in many areas of Ottawa, there aren’t a lot of things to see that will get your spirits up.  And some people live in these areas every day of their lives.  It wouldn’t hurt to touch them up a bit, even if it’s just a billboard or a statue of something nice to look at.  As stated before, the majority of problems stem from people, and people’s moods and overall outlooks play a big part in that.  If they’re a little happier each day, then there wouldn’t be as many problems going around.  All the petty reasons for doing something harmful or stupid would be just that: petty.  It’s a small thing, and it may seem stupid to some people, but I guarantee it would help out, even if just a little bit.

4. Stricter gun control

Maybe this should have been at the top of the list, but I already know it wouldn’t happen anyway.  In Taipei, the only people allowed to have guns are the police.  There aren’t any stores that sell guns to the public, and frankly that’s the way it should be.  Guns are primitive, and quite cowardly.  Anyone can hold something and press a button on it to injure or kill someone.  This doesn’t make you a bad-ass, it makes you pathetic.  Some people will always be crazy and stupid.  So doesn’t taking away one of the easiest means of hurting each other make the most sense?  Why exactly are we allowing ourselves to wipe each other out?

5.  Better looking bus stations

When I close my eyes and picture a bus station in Ottawa, I always picture the same thing:  A bunch of sad and grumpy people waiting around.  Why are they sad and grumpy?  Because they have to take the bus!  No one likes riding public transit.  I should know, I’ve been doing it for years now.  But maybe, just maybe, we’d all enjoy it a little bit more if there were something there to keep our spirits up.  This ties back in to point number three, just in a different setting.  Having a statue or a painting or just something to draw the eye could do wonders for people’s moods.  And the happier people are, the more productive they’ll probably be.  The more productive they are, the more things will get done to improve situations.  The more situations get improved, the more happy people there’ll be in the world.  The happier people are in the world, the more productive they’ll be… I could do this forever, but the point is that it’s a cycle of well-being. But we can’t just expect people to wake up one day and say, “I’m just going to start feeling good for the rest of my life.”  Humans are creatures of desire, and sometimes what they desire is just something to make them feel good.  Why deny them that?

There are a few more points I can make, but these were the ones that greatly stood out in my mind.  Would all of these things work to stop crime?  The simple truth is I can’t answer that question.  We’d never really know if it would work until we try it, and ultimately there may be one nay-sayer who refuses to go along with it and wishes to keep living in “da hood.”  But I can’t ignore what I saw overseas compared to what I see here.  The fact is, changes should be made, and hopefully soon before it’s too late.  But, as the title of this article says, this is all just one tourist’s opinion.

What’s your opinion, Ottawa?


A young writer, novelist, and playwright from Ottawa, Dave Coleman covers topics like books & literature, theatre, and the arts.

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