In my New Year purge of papers and knickknacks and clothes I never wear, I found a copy of my very first article, dating back to December 2007.

It was a human rights column written for my high school paper The Empress, inspired by the all-too-familiar Robert Dziekanski case splashed across the pages of real newspapers at the time.

But on the topic of “real” publications: I think the paper we put out was a more-than-decent product given that our school didn’t have a journalism class at the time. (In hindsight, it was more the teenage equivalent of a Vancouver cultural mag than a newspaper.)

I usually cringe when I read anything I wrote in high school: It’s always less imaginative than what I conjured up in elementary school, and less grammatically correct than what I write now. Hopefully.

But this piece was worth a read, and so escaped my toss pile.

Plus, it made the front page, so I had to keep it for hubris’ sake. And also because I’m fairly certain that this is the only high school story I wrote. (I never interviewed that policeman.)

Column: Human Rights                                                         Hayley Woodin

Do you know your rights as a Canadian citizen? If you don’t, how do you know when your rights are being violated? You may have heard about the Florida university student who was tasered and handcuffed by police for asking a question at a presidential candidate forum. Were his rights violated? The last time I checked, it was perfectly legal to ask questions in your own country. Freedom of speech is a constitutional right, granted to us by the government. So why did the American authorities deem it necessary to aggressively stop the student from questioning presidential candidate John Kerry? And more importantly, does this abuse of power occur in Canada?

Over the past few months, I’ve come across over half-a-dozen news stories involving local police or RCMP who seemed to have overreacted while carrying out their policing duties. In future columns I hope to explore these cases and share what I have learned about how police enforce the law, and how they are reprimanded when they are found to have overreacted.

But for now I want to ask the question: what are our rights as citizens when it comes to dealing with the police or other authorities? And what are our responsibilities, if any, as “good Canadian citizens”? Does the old Canadian stereotype of us being generally polite come from following rules of etiquette and abiding by the law? Or is it solely an impression we seem to make on other cultures? An interview is in the process of being set up with a local White Rock policeman, and it is here where I hope to find some answers. Things aren’t always as they seem, yet sometimes first impressions turn out to be true. It is here that I hope to ask more questions, and share with you my personal opinions.