Chilliwack sign bylaw ‘constitutionally suspect’ says BC Civil Liberties official

The BC Civil Liberties Association is asking Chilliwack and other Lower Mainland municipalities to review sign bylaws cited in the removal of anti-HST signs from city properties.

The BC Civil Liberties Association is asking Chilliwack and other Lower Mainland municipalities to review sign bylaws cited in the removal of anti-HST signs from city properties.

“Municipalities are enforcing bylaws that will not survive constitutional challenge,” BCCLA president Robert Holmes said in a June 24 news release.

He said a legal challenge would be “costly to citizens and taxpayers,” so the association is urging municipalities to “do the right thing” and redraft bylaws to comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz said the city’s lawyer is already reviewing the bylaw.

But she stood by her earlier defense of the bylaw, which was cited when dozens of anti-HST signs were removed from city property, including several outside City Hall.

Gaetz said she still believes the city is on solid legal ground because the bylaw does not absolutely ban political signs, so it’s not infringing on anyone’s freedom of speech.

The bylaw does require a $500 deposit to make sure the signs are taken down once the election, or, in this case, the referendum, is over, but it is refunded if all the signs are taken down.

“It’s not fair to taxpayers,” Gaetz insisted, to make them pay for sign removal, whether they agree or not with the HST.

But Micheal Vonn, the BCCLA’s policy director, said the $500 permit fee makes the Chilliwack bylaw “constitutionally suspect … right from the get-go.”

The legal issue is whether the bylaw “impairs the rights in question,” she said, and the courts might view the permit fee – even a refundable one – as a stumbling block to freedom of speech.

“Right away, that (fee) takes a whole lot of people out of the running,” Vonn said.

She said the Chilliwack bylaw – and others in the Lower Mainland – were drafted before the BC Court of Appeal struck down a sign bylaw last year in Vancouver that proposed a $1,000 permit fee.

“The minute you start getting into those kinds of figures, it’s constitutionally suspect,” she said.

The enforcement of most municipal sign bylaws is also complaint driven, another no-no as far as freedom of speech is concerned.

“It’s simply not enough that (a sign or slogan) gets up somebody’s nose,” Vonn said, to justify removal.

The BCCLA doesn’t want to start a court fight, Vonn added, and she hopes “moral suasion” will convince municipalities to let the anti-HST signs remain up until the referendum is over.

In Chilliwack, Fight HST organizer Glen Thompson vowed he’d take the city to court for removing the anti-HST signs, but then NDP election candidate Gwen O’Mahony stepped into the fray and paid the $500 permit deposit.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From the Chilliwack Progress Archives: Fearing an Aryan invasion

In 1995, Chilliwack Mayor John Les was concerned about the idea of an ‘Aryan Fest’ coming to town.

Big Bar Landslide saw long awaited blasting this week

Pressure has been on senior governments working with First Nations to remove blockage for months

COLUMN: Trying to look forward while looking back

Reader suggests re-running a 2015 Times column after recent racism towards Indigenous people

Two prolific offenders from Alberta lead RCMP on chase across Fraser Valley

Men first reported in Chilliwack ending with allegedly stolen vehicle in an Abbotsford pond

Chilliwack physiotherapist charged with sexual assault

Mounties urging other potential victims to make contact

VIDEO: Behind the scenes of turning newspapers into digital archives

Kelowna Capital News donated materials dating from 1980 to 2000

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

Fiery collision involving truck closes Highway 1 at Three Valley Gap

Drivers should expect major delays and congestion; estimated time of re-opening is 2 p.m.

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

B.C. massage therapist suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct

While suspended, Leonard Krekic is not entitled to practice as an RMT in B.C.

‘A bag full of garbage every 15 metres’: Surrey industrial area filled with trash

Local workers looking to recruit business, raise funds to help dispose of litter

Most Read