CALGARY: The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) is deeply troubled by the recent bylaw passed by Calgary City Council that restricts protests around city libraries and city recreation facilities, like community and fitness centres. The new bylaw restricts specified types of protests, namely protests that express “objection or disapproval” towards ideas or actions related to “race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation”.
The bylaw prohibits protests of this nature on publicly accessible property within 100 metres of an entrance to a recreation facility or a library.
“This bylaw is not content neutral. It only prohibits specific types of protests that the government disapproves of. The courts have been very clear that the right to freedom of expression is content neutral. The content of a protest’s expression, no matter how offensive, unpopular or disturbing cannot deprive a protestor of their section 2(b) Charter protection,” said CCF Litigation Director, Christine Van Geyn. “It is not for the government to tell Canadians what they may or may not protest. This proposed bylaw and the $10,000 fine associated with it is unconstitutional and should never have been passed. We are preparing to bring a Charter challenge.”
The CCF has also launched an online petition where individuals interested in putting their name forward can submit their information and the story of how this bylaw may impact them. The portal is at TheCCF.ca/CalgaryProtestBan/
The CCF is also in consultations with lawyers about this case.
“This bylaw is a clear example of a short-sighted council pushing through an unconstitutional bylaw because of a current cultural touchpoint. The debate at Council makes it quite clear that the concern driving this rush to enact the protest ban is protests at Drag Queen Story Hour. However, Calgarians have a right to protest such events, and indeed a right to protest any topic they choose. Calgary City Council has closed its eyes to the potential unforeseen consequences of this bylaw being used to silence speech that they themselves may agree with,” concluded Van Geyn.
Members of the public interested in supporting the costs associated with this case can make a tax-deductible charitable donation at theCCF.ca/donate/