Concluded Cases

 

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Edmonton Pro-Life v Edmonton Northlands

Northlands and Edmonton-Pro-Life (EPL) reached an agreement that allowed EPL to have a booth at the annual Klondike Days Festival in July 2017. This decision came following productive discussions between the parties to find an amicable resolution.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca) made a formal request for Edmonton Northlands to reconsider its refusal to permit Edmonton Pro-Life (EPL) to have a booth at the 2017 K-Days festival, which takes place this year from July 21 – July 30.

EPL has had a booth at K-Days for over 15 consecutive years, and never had difficulty registering.  On January 6, 2017, a Northlands “Exhibit Sales Specialist” informed EPL that EPL would no longer be permitted to have a booth at K-Days.  Northlands claims to have adopted a “new policy” prohibiting “political and religious organizations” from having booths at K-Days. A JCCF lawyer called Northlands in February to ask for a copy of their policies, and his request was refused.  The Justice Centre has not found any policy that purports to prohibit political or religious groups.

K-Days is operated on property owned entirely by the City of Edmonton. Northlands receives the bulk of its funds from government, and numerous government representatives and employees are on the board of Northlands. The Justice Centre explains in its letter to Northlands that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to their decision to prevent the expression of EPL, and is an infringement of section 2(b) of the Charter.

Toronto v. Fountas

Erik Fountas was peacefully expressing his beliefs on a public sidewalk when Toronto Police charged him with obstructing a street.

Around noon on February 2, 2016, Erik Fountas and a colleague began expressing their opinions to members of the public in Toronto, near the corner of Yonge Street and Gould Street. Erik was speaking on a wide sidewalk area, near a large concrete staircase that leads up to a Ryerson University building. Erik was speaking at the street edge of the sidewalk, facing toward the staircase, when a small crowd formed in front of him.

The Toronto Police Service (TPS) received a complaint about a comment Erik allegedly made while he was speaking to the small group of listeners. Two TPS officers requested that Erik leave. When he refused, they issued him a ticket for “encumbering a street” and therefore violating 313-2A of the Toronto Municipal Code. The By-law in question stated:

“No person shall obstruct, encumber, injure or foul or cause or permit the obstructing, encumbering, injuring or fouling of any street.”

The TPS officers claimed that the crowd listening to Erik was so large that it blocked entirely the passage of pedestrians on the Gould Street sidewalk.

The Justice Centre represented Erik as he challenged the ticket and defended his Charter section 2(b) freedom of expression.  Several days before the trial (scheduled for May 29, 2017) the Crown withdrew the charges.

Edmonton v. Dale

The Justice Centre has helped secure another victory for the rights of an Edmonton man to express his opinions peacefully on a public sidewalk.

On June 3, 2016, “Dale” was peacefully speaking on a street corner in Edmonton when he was ticketed by the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) for allegedly “causing noise that disturbs peace to another” in violation of a bylaw.  As with the case of another client of the Justice Centre previously posted here, Dale was informed that he was not any louder than a guitarist playing nearby or the usual traffic noise. The police nevertheless issued Dale a ticket because, they said, they received a complaint and therefore had to issue a ticket.

The Justice Centre took on Dale’s case, fully prepared for a long court fight if necessary, in order to protect the free expression rights of all Canadians. The charges were stayed by the Crown in October 2016.

The Justice Centre fully supports the existence of noise by-laws, and their enforcement by police.  But using noise-bylaws to silence speech that is not loud but merely unpopular is an abuse of government power that must be challenged and checked.

Following intervention from the Justice Centre, the Crown has now stayed three separate charges laid by EPS against citizens for peacefully expression their opinions in public. The Justice Centre has written a letter to the Chief of Edmonton’s Police Service about the issuance of these tickets, and the current practice of Edmonton police to silence Canadians who wish to express their views peacefully on a public sidewalk.

A response from EPS is pending.

Trinity Western University v. Law Society of British Columbia

The law societies of B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia have ruled against recognizing the law school of Trinity Western University (“TWU”), a private Evangelical Christian university in Langley, B.C.  All other law societies in Canada have voted in favour of accepting TWU’s graduates. As a consequence of the Law Society of B.C.’s (“LSBC”) refusal to recognize TWU’s law program the B.C. Minister of Advanced Education rescinded the province’s approval of the law program.  TWU filed an Originating Application for judicial review of the LSBC decision.

On December 10, 2015, the Chief Justice of the B.C. Supreme Court ruled against the LSBC.  The LSBC has appealed to the Court of Appeal of B.C.

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has approved the law program of TWU as meeting academic and professional standards.  The LSBC admits there is nothing wrong with TWU’s law program, but claims that TWU’s Community Covenant discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community.  The Community Covenant prohibits numerous legal activities such as vulgar or obscene language, drunkenness, viewing pornography, gossip, and sexual activity outside of the marriage of one man and one woman.

As an intervenor in all three provinces where TWU’s right to start a law school has been challenged, the Justice Centre argued for the Charter section 2(d) right to freedom of association, including the right of every charity, ethnic and cultural association, sports club, temple, church, and political group to establish its own rules and membership requirements.

On November 1, 2016, the Court of Appeal of British Columbia ruled in favour of Trinity Western.

AFDI v. City of Edmonton

The Justice Centre represented a non-profit human rights advocacy group in a court action against the City of Edmonton. The City cancelled bus advertisements that opposed the “honour killings” of women and girls, in response to complaints about the ads.

In October of 2013, ads ran on Edmonton Transit buses reading “Muslim Girls Honor Killed By Their Families”, showing photos of Aqsa Parvez and six other women, murdered for choosing to live by Western values like women’s equality. The rest of the ad read “Is your family threatening you? Is there a fatwa on your head? We can help: go to FightforFreedom.us”.

So-called “honour killings” occur when a woman is considered to have sullied the family’s honour through some sexual indiscretion, or even perceived immodesty. Her killing is considered to cleanse the family’s honour. Aqsa Parvez was only 16 when she was strangled to death for refusing to wear a hijab. Aqsa’s brother and father felt that not wearing a head scarf dishonoured the family, so they killed Aqsa in her own home in Mississauga, on December 10, 2007.

The transit ads were paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a non-profit, non-partisan human rights advocacy group. The organization defends freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, individual rights, and the equality of all people before the law.

Edmonton Transit pulled the ad after Edmonton City Councillor Amerjeet Sohi called to complain about it.  The head of Edmonton Transit immediately ordered the ad taken down, without seeing the ad, considering its contents, or contemplating freedom of expression as defined by the Supreme Court.  Edmonton Transit refused to answer questions from the American Freedom Defence Initiative (AFDI), the non-profit group which had paid for the ads.  Only after AFDI started a court action did Edmonton start to claim that the ad was anti-Muslim.

Edmonton Transit has no consistent standard when it comes to bus ads.  It previously dismissed complaints about a pro-Islamic ad, posted on buses, stating: “ISLAM The message of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad”, an assertion sure to be offensive to Jews and Christians.  The Supreme Court requires governments to be neutral.  But there is nothing neutral about permitting a pro-Islamic ad while removing an ad that Edmonton Transit (months later) called anti-Islamic.

The Court of Queen’s Bench heard oral argument in September 2016. The decision by Justice John Gill in American Freedom Defence Initiative v. City of Edmonton was released on October 4. The court rejected AFDI’s free expression claim, upholding Edmonton’s arbitrary double standard.

Rather than considering the ad alone, the court looked at internet postings about AFDI that were captured two years after the ad ran.  The court, however, did not apply this same technique to the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which paid for the pro-Islam ad.  A quick internet search reveals numerous allegations about ICNA connections to al-Qaeda, Hamas, anti-Semites, extremists, terrorists, and war criminals.  No doubt ICNA would deny these allegations.  It’s bad enough that politicians, bureaucrats and judges would have the power to censor speech they disagree with.  But censorship becomes even worse when inquisitors purport to know the true meaning and intent of a bus ad, based not on the ad itself, but on Google searches conducted by City employees two years after the removal of the ad.

“One could argue that, as a forum for the free expression of ideas, the outside of a public transit bus should be less free than a public sidewalk.  The Supreme Court may one day clarify its 2009 decision to strike down Vancouver’s ban on political ads.  But in the interim, it’s disappointing to see a politician, a bureaucrat, and then a judge acting in unison to censor an ad they disagree with,” stated Justice Centre president John Carpay.

This decision has not been appealed.

Edmonton v. Smeding

The Justice Centre has secured a victory for the rights of an Edmonton man to express his opinions peacefully on a public sidewalk.

On the evening of May 20, 2016 Nehemia Smeding was peacefully expressing his opinions on a street corner in Edmonton, using a small amplifier, when he was ticketed by the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) for “causing noise that disturbs peace to another” in violation of a bylaw.

EPS officers explained to Nehemia that they were ticketing him because they received a complaint, not because the officers themselves thought Nehemia was too loud.  When Nehemia asked the officers their thoughts on the loudness of his speaking, the officers stated that Nehemia’s volume was no greater than that of the vehicle traffic.  The officers also stated that they did not hear Nehemia while in the store across the street.  Yet these same EPS officers were responding to a complaint from an employee of a store across the street, who claimed that he could hear the “hollering speech [of Mr. Smeding] echoing throughout the store.” The complainant specifically requested the EPS to ticket Nehemia for “disturbing the peace of others.”

Nehemia had been expressing his opinions peacefully at the same street corner for several months prior. Across the street from Nehemia, a guitar player typically played his electric guitar with the use of an amplifier while Nehemia was speaking. Prior to receiving the ticket, Nehemia had been told by EPS officers that the guitar player was much louder than Nehemia’s speech. The guitar player had been playing his electric guitar at the time Nehemia was ticketed.

Edmonton police are obviously responding to complaints about the content of Nehemia’s speech, not its volume.  The Justice Centre fully supports the existence of noise by-laws, and their enforcement by police.  But using noise-bylaws to silence speech that is not loud but merely unpopular is an abuse of government power that must be challenged and checked.

The Justice Centre took on Nehemia’s case, fully prepared for a long court fight if necessary, to protect the free expression rights of all Canadians. A trial date was set for March 31, 2017. On January 9, 2017, the Crown agreed to drop its charges against Nehemia.

Following intervention from the Justice Centre, the Crown has now stayed three separate charges laid by EPS against citizens for peacefully expression their opinions in public. The Justice Centre has written a letter to the Chief of Edmonton’s Police Service about the issuance of these tickets, and the current practice of Edmonton police to silence Canadians who wish to express their views peacefully on a public sidewalk.

A response from EPS is pending.

Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada

On July 2, 2015, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice upheld the decision of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) to refuse to recognize the law program of Trinity Western University (TWU), a private Evangelical Christian university in Langley, B.C.  TWU has appealed.

The Justice Centre intervened in this court action, in support of Charter section 2(d) right to freedom of association, including the right of every charity, ethnic and cultural association, sports club, temple, church, and political group to establish its own rules and membership requirements.

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has approved the law program of TWU as meeting academic and professional standards.  The LSUC admits there is nothing wrong with TWU’s law program, but claim that TWU’s Community Covenant discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community.  The Community Covenant prohibits numerous legal activities such as vulgar or obscene language, drunkenness, viewing pornography, gossip, and sexual activity outside of the marriage of one man and one woman.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled against Trinity Western University on June 29, 2016.

Brandon University Students for Life v. Brandon University Students’ Union

Brandon University Students for Life is a campus student group at Brandon University focused on generating debate and discussion on campus regarding euthanasia, abortion, suicide and other life issues.  Students for Life has been active on campus since 2012, when it first sought student group status from the Brandon University Students’ Union (“BUSU”).  BUSU initially denied recognition to Students for Life, but after receiving a warning letter from the Justice Centre, BUSU changed its position and granted student group status to Students for Life in September of 2013.  Since then, Students for Life has conducted numerous peaceful events on campus to engage with fellow students.

However, in November 2015, BUSU revoked Students for Life’s student group status, without informing the Students for Life of its intentions to do so, and without providing any opportunity for Students for Life to defend itself.  BUSU further failed to inform Students for Life that its student group status had been revoked.

Students for Life did not learn that its student group status had been previously revoked until January 2016, when its communications director Andrew Madill attempted to book space in the Mingling Area of the Student Union Centre.  BUSU informed Mr. Madill that Students for Life no longer had student group status, and was therefore ineligible to book space in the Mingling Area, a prime location for student groups to engage their fellow students.

BUSU has attempted to justify revoking Students for Life’s student group status on the following grounds:

  • its message has made some students feel “uncomfortable” and “intimidated”;
  • it was affiliated with a Canadian pro-life group that BUSU “had issues with”;
  • its beliefs did not align with the Canadian Federation of Students’ official pro-choice stance; and
  • it was redundant, because the issues of suicide and abortion are already being addressed by the LGBTQ Collective and the Women’s Collective.

In February 2016, BUSU told Students for Life that:

  • it might be able to regain its student group status if it “changed [its] views;”
  • it “can’t really talk about personal issues;” and
  • it cannot “put [its] views out to a larger body.”

The removal of its student group status means that Students for Life can no longer book meeting rooms from either BUSU or Brandon University, unless its pays booking fees that no other student groups are required to pay.  Further, Students for Life no longer has access to numerous other benefits attached to student group status.  Yet, Students for Life’s president Catherine Dubois and other members must still pay mandatory fees to BUSU.

The Justice Centre filed a court application on behalf of Students for Life against BUSU in July of 2016. In the court application, Students for Life seeks a Court Order that its student group status be reinstated, and that BUSU be prohibited from further illegal discrimination.

In her sworn affidavit, filed with the Court, Catherine Dubois states:

“As members and executives of Students for Life and students of Brandon University, we feel that BUSU is excluding us from the Brandon University community.  We desire to associate as a campus club, and to express our views peacefully, but the BUSU’s obstruction and suppression of our views and our expression, including BUSU’s revocation of our student group recognition, have significantly diminished our ability to do so.  We feel marginalized, censored and discriminated against by BUSU simply because we want to host events, share our views, and have discussions about life and death issues such as abortion and physician-assisted suicide.”

The court action was settled on August 24, 2016.  BUSU agreed in writing to reverse its 2015 decision revoking Students for Life’s student group status, and to recognize Students for Life an official student group in the 2016-2017 school year.

Trinity Western University v. Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society

The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society (NSBS) has refused to recognize  the law program of Trinity Western University (TWU), a private Evangelical Christian university in Langley, B.C.  The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has approved the law program of TWU as meeting academic and professional standards.  The NSBS does not allege that there is anything wrong with TWU’s law program, but claims that TWU’s Community Covenant discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community.  The Community Covenant prohibits numerous legal activities such as vulgar or obscene language, drunkenness, viewing pornography, gossip, and sexual activity outside of the marriage of one man and one woman.

The Justice Centre previously intervened in this case at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in December of 2014, to argue for the Charter section 2(d) right to freedom of association, including the right of every charity, ethnic and cultural association, sports club, temple, church, and political group to establish its own rules and membership requirements.  On January 28, 2015, Justice James Campbell of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia ruled against the NSBS, stating “The Charter is not a blueprint for moral conformity. Its purpose is to protect the citizen from the power of the state, not to enforce compliance by citizens or private institutions with the moral judgments of the state.”

On July 26, 2016, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal upheld the ruling of the Supreme Court, protecting freedom for Trinity Western, its graduates, and all Canadians. The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society has stated it will not appeal this Court of Appeal decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Calgary v. Reicher

In December 2015, Peter Reicher was standing by the entrance to a Calgary CTrain station handing out postcards which invited people to attend his church’s free New Year’s concert. Despite the fact that Mr. Reicher was not impeding pedestrian flow or causing any problems, he was ordered to stop by a Calgary Transit officer.  The officer told him that he was not allowed to distribute postcards there and ordered him to move across the street.

Mr. Reicher complied and crossed to the other side of the road which parallels the train tracks, and continued handing out postcards on the pedestrian overpass that links the sidewalk to the CTrain station.  A short while later, Mr. Reicher was again ordered to stop, this time by two Transit officers, who issued him a $250 ticket for violating a Calgary bylaw that prohibits passing out written materials without the prior approval of a city official.

Believing that his freedom of expression had been violated, Mr. Reicher contacted the Justice Centre.  The requirement to receive prior permission before handing out literature was found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Saumur v City of Quebec, [1953] 2 SCR 299.  There, Justice Locke stated that “the true purpose of the by-law is not to regulate traffic in the streets but to impose a censorship on the written expression of religious views and their dissemina­tion, a constitutional right of all of the people of Canada….”

The Justice Centre encouraged Mr. Reicher to assert his freedom of expression and provided him with guidance and advice in navigating the initial steps in the proceedings.  Shortly after City prosecutors became aware that a Charter defense would be raised, they informed Mr. Reicher that they would be withdrawing the charge for violating the bylaw.

BC Civil Liberties Association v. University of Victoria

JCCF intervened in the B.C. Court of Appeal, on behalf of campus free speech rights, in the case of BC Civil Liberties Association v. University of Victoria.

This case arose in 2013, when the U-Vic pro-life student club Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) was granted approval by the university administration to conduct a small, peaceful demonstration on campus, involving students holding pro-life signs, handing out pamphlets, and engaging fellow students in conversation.  The day prior to this YPY event, club president Cam Cote received a call from the University administration informing him that approval had been withdrawn, such that YPY could not proceed with expressing its opinions on campus.

This 11th-hour reversal was the result of opposition from the University of Victoria Student Society (UVSS).  The student union’s complaints to the University administration boil down to complaints about the content of YPY’s beliefs and expression. There were no complaints of any YPY member having engaged in misconduct, inappropriate behaviour, or violating university rules and policies.  The complaint was directed purely at YPY’s message and opinions.

Prior to 2013, the student union (UVSS) had a long track record of censoring YPY. The tactics used by UVSS have included denying or removing club status from YPY; withholding funding from YPY (while funding all other campus groups); preventing YPY from advertising its events; and filing complaints against YPY for “harassment” based solely on YPY’s beliefs and expression (and not based on any harassing behaviour or misconduct on the part of YPY members).

The censorship methods of UVSS are, unfortunately, used by many student unions, from Victoria, BC to St. John’s, Newfoundland.  What is arguably worse in this case is that the U-Vic administration abdicated its own responsibility to uphold free speech rights on campus, and instead chose to follow the dictates of the student union

In support of free expression rights, the BC Civil Liberties Association and YPY president Cam Cote took the University of Victoria to court. They lost in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, which ruled that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply to public universities, and that the university’s decision fell within its “autonomous operational decision-making”.  Cam Cote and the BC Civil Liberties Association are now appealing before the BC Court of Appeal.  As an intervener is the appeal, JCCF will argue that the University of Victoria’s decision was unreasonable, and that the University does not have unfettered discretion to censor the peaceful expression of opinion on campus, even if the University is not a “government” body and not subject to the Charter. The JCCF will argue that U-Vic is a public body, subject to administrative law principles, including the requirement to give great weight to the free expression rights of all students, and all opinions.

The BC Court of Appeal heard oral argument on February 4 and 5, 2016, and rendered its decision on April 18, 2016. The Court of Appeal dismissed the students’ argument that the Charter applies to public universities, ruling that public, taxpayer-funded universities are not government entities, and are not implementing government programs.  However, the Court has left the door wide open to accepting, in future court cases, that universities are bound by principles of administrative law, which require them to treat all students equally without discriminating on the basis of students’ beliefs.

Edmonton v. Warren

On a Friday evening in July, 2015, Warren, age 53, was peacefully expressing his views on an Edmonton street corner when a police officer stopped him and issued him a ticket for “disturb[ing] the peace of another individual.”

A woman had filed a complaint against the expression, claiming it was loud and specifically complaining about its religious contents.  She stated that other people had complained to her that the expression was “hate speech.”  In the police report, the officer claims that police had been previously warned Warren that his speech was “offending” others.

Warren refused to plead guilty and pay a fine for peacefully sharing his religious beliefs in public, and faced a trial set for February 26, 2016.

In January 2016, the Justice Centre was made aware of the charge against Warren and immediately set about to defend him and the right of all Canadians to freely and publicly express their beliefs and opinions, even when those beliefs and opinions offend others.

By initiating disclosure requests, the Justice Centre confirmed that the charge had been made against Warren on the basis that others had found the speech “offensive”.  The state owes a duty to protect offensive and unpopular speech, not to sanction it.

Following the disclosure of the additional information, on February 12, 2016, the City of Edmonton agreed to withdraw the charge against Warren.

The Justice Centre fully supports the existence of noise by-laws, and their enforcement by police.  But using noise-bylaws to silence speech that is not loud but merely unpopular is an abuse of government power that must be challenged and checked.

Following intervention from the Justice Centre, the Crown has now stayed three separate charges laid by EPS against citizens for peacefully expression their opinions in public. The Justice Centre has written a letter to the Chief of Edmonton’s Police Service about the issuance of these tickets, and the current practice of Edmonton police to silence Canadians who wish to express their views peacefully on a public sidewalk.

A response from EPS is pending.

Allen v. Alberta

The Justice Centre sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada from the Alberta Court of Appeal decision in Allen v. Alberta, a constitutional challenge to the government’s health care monopoly and its painful waiting lists.  The Alberta Court of Appeal was unanimous in rejecting the Charter challenge of Darcy Allen, who argued that access to a waiting list is not access to health care.  Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada has been denied.

The Court ignored the evidence that many patients in Alberta are on waiting lists for surgery, and many of those patients, like Darcy Allen, suffer severe pain for years.  This evidence was substantially similar to the evidence before the Supreme Court of Canada in the Chaoulli decision, which struck down Quebec’s ban on private health insurance.

Dr. Darcy Allen practiced as a dentist in Okotoks, Alberta, until severe and continuous back pain forced him to stop working.  Dr. Allen suffered in pain for years on waiting lists in the government’s health care monopoly until he finally added another mortgage to his house to pay for the medically necessary surgery in Montana.

Dr. Allen sought to extend to Alberta the 2005 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Chaoulli v. Quebec, which held that “access to a waiting list is not access to health care.”  In Chaoulli, the Supreme Court noted that painful and sometimes deadly waiting lists for patients, in combination with laws that effectively prohibit access to basic medical services outside the government’s monopoly, violate the Charter rights to life and security of the person.

Nicholas Mcleod v. Mount Royal University

From 2013 to 2015, the JCCF represented Nicholas McLeod in his claim against Mount Royal University (“MRU”) in Calgary.  In February 2013, Nicholas was peacefully distributing pro-life literature in a building on campus when confronted by MRU security guard Jeff Beddome, who ordered Nicholas to stop immediately, because Beddome considered the literature to be “offensive.”  Nicholas initially refused to stop distributing his pamphlets, but then agreed to leave on condition that he could retrieve his jacket from a locker, as it was a very cold winter evening.  Beddome and other security guards tried to force Nicholas to leave the building without permitting him to retrieve his jacket, which was in a nearby locker.  The security guards assaulted Nicholas, forced him to the ground, hand-cuffed him, and confined him to a small room for several hours, with his hands still cuffed painfully behind his back.  Nicholas had video-recorded the incident on his cell phone, but one of the MRU guards removed the SD memory card from Nicholas’ cell phone.  That guard was later charged with theft, and admitted in court to having taken this evidence.

On behalf of Nicholas, the JCCF requested an apology from MRU, appropriate compensation for physical and psychological suffering endured by Nicholas, and revisions to campus security policies and training.  MRU rejected this proposal in its entirety, making court action necessary.

In 2015, the court action settled without continuing further to trial.  MRU president Dr. David Docherty apologized to Nicholas for the behaviour of MRU security guards, their unnecessary use of force, the unlawful detention, and the violation of Charter rights.  In his letter of apology, Dr. Docherty stated that “supplemental training will be conducted to ensure that community officers understand the interaction between the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and their duties in maintaining a safe campus environment.”

Cameron Wilson et al. v. University of Calgary

Since 2006, University of Calgary pro-life students have set up a controversial display on campus numerous times, usually four days per year (two days in the spring and two days in the fall).  In 2006 and 2007, the University of Calgary (U of C) posted its own signs near the display, stating that this expression was protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 

In March of 2008, the U of C began demanding – on threat of expulsion – that the students set up their display with the signs facing inwards, to hide the signs entirely from the view of people passing by.  No other group or club on campus was subjected to this demand, and the U of C had not objected to gory, graphic and disturbing images used by other groups (e.g. photo of head having gone through a windshield, displayed by pro-seatbelt group; graphic photos of torture perpetrated by the Chinese communist government against adherents of the Falun Gong religion).  The students therefore continued to set up their display with signs facing outwards, as they had already been doing for the previous two years.

 In 2009, the U of C tried unsuccessfully to have the pro-life students found guilty of trespassing on their own campus.  The Crown Prosecutors’ office withdrew the charges because the students were not violating any University rules, regulations, or policies.

 In 2010, the U of C found seven students guilty of non-academic misconduct for having continued to set up their display with signs facing outwards.  In 2011, the Board of Governors of the U of C rejected the students’ appeal and affirmed this verdict of guilty.  The students challenged this decision in a court action seeking judicial review, commenced in 2011, and were represented by the JCCF.

In April of 2014, in Wilson v. University of Calgary, the Court set aside the Board of Governors decision as being unreasonable and lacking “justification, transparency and intelligibility.”  The Court stated that the Board of Governors had failed to balance the students’ free expression rights with other interests, and did not take into account “the nature and purpose of a university as a forum for the expression of differing views”.  The Board of Governors then reversed its position. The charges of non-academic misconduct were quashed, and removed from the students’ files.

R v. Booyink

In 1991, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a very clear judgment in support of free expression in the public areas of airports, in Committee for the Commonwealth of Canada v. Canada, [1991] 1 SCR 139.  The Court reiterated that speech cannot be censored just because some people may find it offensive.  In particular, the Court held that peaceful expression of opinion is permitted in the public areas of airports, which are owned by government.  All members of the public (not just travelling passengers with tickets) have access to these public, government-owned areas, and are free to express their opinion peacefully in public spaces.

In spite of the Court’s ruling in Commonwealth, the Calgary Airport Authority charged eight peaceful protesters with trespassing in October 2011, claiming that the airport is private property (all while admitting that the airport is owned by government, and that the Calgary Airport is a tenant).  The JCCF defended the protesters’ free expression rights in the Provincial Court of Alberta.  On July 15, 2013, the Court acquitted the protesters of the trespassing charges, in R. v. Booyink.  Judge Allan Fradsham noted that the protesters were peaceful and well-behaved, and did not interfere with any of the airport’s operations.  He upheld their right to express their opinions in the public sections of the Calgary International Airport, based on the 1991 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Commonwealth.