Canadian Constitution Foundation retains counsel to challenge unconstitutional Brampton election sign gag by-law

Canadian Constitution Foundation retains counsel to challenge unconstitutional Brampton election sign gag by-law

BRAMPTON: The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), along with three individuals from Brampton, has retained counsel and is working towards a challenge of a planned amendment to the Brampton Sign By-law. The new by-law would prohibit all outdoor election signs, including on private residential property.

“The Brampton sign by-law is undemocratic and unconstitutional. It prohibits outdoor signs on private property and goes against a long line of cases from the Supreme Court protecting free expression and political speech. It entrenches incumbent advantage by protecting candidates with name recognition and prohibiting their opponents from meaningfully advertising. The by-law is transparently self serving and will be struck down,” said CCF Litigation Director Christine Van Geyn.

On November 28, 2022, Brampton Council voted to amend the Sign By-law to only permit the display of election posters in windows or in windows on doors, with the restriction applying to all private property. The amended by-law has not yet been enacted, enactment will happen at an upcoming council meeting. The CCF wrote to all Brampton council members on November 28 in advance of the vote warning that the proposed amendments are unconstitutional and that the CCF would bring a legal challenge to defend the rights of Brampton residents and voters if the amending by-law was passed.

“In selfishly protecting their incumbent positions with this by-law by banning outdoor election signs outdoors on private property, Brampton politicians have trampled on the rights of residents to express their political opinions in the most crucial time – during an election,” continued Van Geyn. “This is why we wrote a letter to the Brampton Council to ask they reconsider. Council proceeded to vote on an unconstitutional by-law, and we have retained we are prepared to litigate. We are jointly represented along with a group of impacted Brampton residents and voters,” said CCF Litigation Director, Christine Van Geyn.
In the letter to council the CCF outlined that the sign law lacks a rational connection to any goals articulated by council, that the by-law in not minimally impairing, and is not proportionate. The letter cites multiple Supreme Court decisions that have struck down far less restrictive by-laws than the one enacted in Brampton.

“We are concerned that this municipal election speech ban will serve as dark inspiration to other municipal politicians looking to silence their opponents, whether those opponents are other candidates or voters. We are moving quickly to nip this unconstitutional by-law in the bud before it becomes a trend. We are concerned about freedom of expression in every corner of the province, and indeed, the country,” concluded Van Geyn.

As of December 7, the CCF has not received a reply from Brampton.

The CCF and the Brampton residents have retained Annamaria Enenajor, who specializes in criminal defence, constitutional law and civil rights law. Ms. Enenajor represented the CCF at the Supreme Court of Canada in a freedom of expression case in 2021.