No fines from Chilliwack flag flap

The consensus at city hall was that parts of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms "supersede" Chilliwack's bylaws in flag stunt

A spokesman from the flag display protest that garnered complaints speaks to an RCMP officer in Chilliwack.

Several complaint calls, along with one formal letter came into Chilliwack City Hall calling for organizers of an anti-abortion display to be fined.

The city will not be issuing any fines arising from the political protest last weekend in downtown Chilliwack, aimed at criticizing the lack of an abortion law in Canada.

Ten thousand blue and pink flags were planted in the grounds around the Chilliwack Museum, which unleashed a torrent of feedback saying the protest showed disrespect for veterans.

After seeking an opinion from its legal counsel, the consensus at city hall was that sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms “supersede” Chilliwack’s municipal bylaws in this regard.

“Therefore, the City is obliged to comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Jamie Leggatt, of the communications department.

Section 2 guarantees and protects:

• freedom of conscience and religion;

• freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

• freedom of peaceful assembly; and

• freedom of association.

It was considered “a staff or operational item,” and not a political topic, she added, which is why the only role council played was in directing staff to review the Parks, Recreation and Culture Bylaw and report back on any amendment recommendations.

“The City is cognizant of the interpretation the courts have given to the protections,” covered under the Charter, Leggatt noted, wherein most types of non-violent or non-threatening political expression is actually protected.

“For example, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that an activity which conveys or attempts to convey a meaning is constitutionally protected, no matter how unpopular, distasteful or contrary to the mainstream,” citing the case, Irwin Toy Ltd. v. Quebec.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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