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.