Justice Centre defends Edmonton resident ticketed for peaceful public expression

EDMONTON: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (jccf.ca) is representing Dale Malayko, a life-long Edmonton resident and a retired firefighter who was ticketed for peacefully expressing his opinions on a public sidewalk.

Mr. Malayko stands accused of “permitting a noise that disturbs the peace of another”. The ticket is being challenged as a violation of Charter-protected free expression.

Dale Malayko is part of a centuries-old tradition of “street preaching’, whereby individuals stand atop a small box placed on the ground and speak impromptu regarding religious subjects, in this case various Bible teachings including the “good news” of Jesus Christ. Unlike street performers, Dale doesn’t hope for money from passersby. Instead, he offers free Bibles to those who want them.

One of the spots Dale regularly speaks at is the corner of Whyte Avenue and 104th St NW. This location is a high traffic, inner-city intersection that is commonly frequented by street performers due to the consistently high amount of vehicle and pedestrian traffic. It’s also very loud due to constant car traffic, buskers, and musicians. Dale stands on a small wooden box when he speaks. The box contains four small holes, one in each side, in which are mounted small speakers connected to a wireless mic.

In the early evening of June 28, 2019, Dale and a colleague were preaching at the corner of Whyte and 104th when they were approached by two Edmonton Police Officers (EPS), Constable Ian Strutynski and Constable Blackwood. Constable Strutynski issued a “noise complaint ticket” to Dale after a business owner on the street complained.

EPS officers have a long history of issuing baseless tickets that are not justified by the facts, to Dale and other street preachers, all of which have previously been dropped by City prosecutors.

The City has decided to prosecute this latest ticket. A three-day trial is scheduled for April 1-3, 2020 in Edmonton Provincial Court. The Justice Centre is representing Dale pro bono and will argue that the issuing of the ticket is a violation of freedom of expression, and that Dale is not guilty because he was peacefully expressing himself in a manner and place that is protected by the Constitution. The Justice Centre will argue that using noise bylaws to stifle and silence lawful speech in public is an abuse of government power which harms the sacrosanct right of free speech.

“The Canadian Constitution protects the rights of people to peacefully express themselves on streets, whether it be through art, music, or the written or spoken word. It does not protect the right of people to not hear things they don’t like,” stated Justice Centre lawyer James Kitchen.

“Noise bylaws are legitimate and serve a useful purpose, such as ensuring residents get a good night’s sleep, instead of being woken up at 3 AM by their lawn-mowing neighbor or a dog that never stops barking. But EPS is abusing Edmonton’s noise bylaw in an attempt to pander to complainants who seek to silence forms of expression they disapprove of,” added Kitchen.