TDF disappointed in Region of Waterloo’s adoption of anti-free speech by-law after sending delegate to oppose enactment

The Region of Waterloo amends by-law to regulate private communications.

WATERLOO: The Democracy Fund (TDF) is disappointed that Council for the Regional Municipality of Waterloo passed an amendment to by-law 13-050 late Wednesday, October 27, which will now regulate communications between private persons. TDF sent their litigation director, Alan Honner, as a delegate to the regional government to urge them against passing the by-law.  

The by-law will now prohibit “communicating, causing or permitting communication” with any person in a way that causes the person, reasonably and in all the circumstances, to feel harassed.  The definition of harassed includes, among other things, feeling troubled, worried or experiencing objectionable comment.  

The new prohibition will only apply on certain property that is owned or occupied by the regional municipality. It will not apply to communications on “highways,” which are usually defined in municipal law as including roads and sidewalks.

While the purported objective of the by-law is to prevent discriminatory communications on human rights grounds, Honner explained to Council that the by-law goes further than required to achieve that objective because it prohibits communications that are unrelated to human rights. Despite Honner’s submission that the by-law was not minimally impairing free expression, Council passed the by-law.

According to municipal documents, the by-law was modelled after the City of Edmonton Public Blace By-Law 14-614. In fact, Waterloo’s by-law amendments are almost word-for-word identical to those of the Edmonton’s by-law.

“The regional municipality says they have a problem with discrimination,” says Honner. “Unfortunately, councillors decided to copy the wording of a deeply flawed Edmonton by-law rather than make their own efforts to combat discrimination. That makes me wonder if they are taking the problem seriously.”

The amendments come into force on January 1, 2024. TDF will consider representing persons charged with the by-law on a case-by-case basis.

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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