TDF defends the rights of transit users against anti-free speech transit bylaw

The city of Calgary has yet to disclose details of impugned communications.

CALGARY: The Democracy Fund (TDF) is representing two men charged under the Calgary Transit Bylaw for allegedly interfering with the comfort of an unknown transit user while en route to the 1 Million March 4 Children in Calgary, Alberta.

The bylaw prohibits anyone on transit property from engaging in activity that would “interfere with the comfort, convenience, or quiet use and enjoyment of the transit system of any reasonable person.”

The men, who have not been told what they did to contravene the by-law, report having had a private conversation on the C-train with a like-minded passenger en route to the march. While the train was mostly empty, it appears that someone overheard their conversation and reported it to bylaw as the men were detained by enforcement officers upon exiting the train.

One of the men was handcuffed while police attempted to confirm information about his identity. Both men were subsequently allowed to leave after they were ticketed and summonsed to court in late November 2023.

TDF has written to Calgary asking for disclosure about the alleged offences but has not yet had a response.

The 1 Million March 4 Children took place in cities across Canada on September 20, 2023. Organizers described it as a march against the “indoctrination” and “sexualization” of children in schools. Detractors described the march as being hateful.

TDF is concerned about the emergence of bylaws that punish private communications that are controversial but not criminal. The City of London’s Graphic Image Delivery By-law is a prime example. That by-law, which came into force in May of last year, invokes the “health, safety and well-being of persons” to regulate the delivery of “graphic images” to residential properties in the City of London. However, the by-law defines “graphic image” as “an image or photograph showing, or purporting to show a fetus or any part of a fetus.”

“The narrow definition of a graphic image begs the question of whether council is trying to restrict pro-life expression,” says Alan Honner, TDF’s litigation director. “Why else would only images of fetuses, no matter how benign, be restricted?”

Other municipalities with restrictive speech by-laws include Edmonton and the Regional Municipality of Waterloo.  Both cities recently passed almost identical by-laws regulating private communications on certain municipal property. While these by-laws purport to protect people against human rights discrimination, they go further than that, as TDF explained in a recent press release.  

TDF is committed to fighting the constitutionally suspect by-laws. To help us in this fight, you can make a tax-deductible donation to support our work.

About The Democracy Fund:

Founded in 2021, The Democracy Fund (TDF) is a Canadian charity dedicated to constitutional rights, advancing education and relieving poverty. TDF promotes constitutional rights through litigation and public education. TDF supports an access to justice initiative for Canadians whose civil liberties have been infringed by government lockdowns and other public policy responses to the pandemic.

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