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City of Calgary surrenders as citizens seek to challenge court injunction

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is pleased to report that on April 26, 2022, the City of Calgary (the “City”) dropped its court action to obtain a permanent injunction against ongoing freedom rallies in the Beltline area. The City had already obtained an urgent temporary injunction (the “Order”), disrupting the way citizens could engage in peaceful assembly.

The Court of Queen’s Bench granted the Order on March 18, 2022, at the request of the City against unnamed citizens who had, for several months, peacefully assembled each Saturday around Central Memorial Park and 17th Avenue S.W. Some of the rallies attracted more than 10,000 peaceful protestors. A hearing of the permanent injunction application was originally scheduled for May 4, 2022, but will now not proceed as the City has dropped its legal action.

“Abruptly and without notice, the City’s lawyers dropped their attempt at a permanent injunction and requested that the Court cancel the temporary injunction as of Tuesday, April 26, 2022,” states Andre Memauri, lawyer at the Justice Centre.

The Order required citizens to follow certain City bylaws and other laws relating to assembling at parks, using amplification systems for speeches, walking on roadways, and honking horns. The Order also gave police and “others assisting law enforcement” various powers to ensure the Order was followed, including the use of reasonable force to arrest and detain citizens.

At the time the injunction was granted, Justice Centre President John Carpay stated, “This is an outrageous abuse of power. It seems that politicians, bureaucrats and the police chief have a very low opinion of the fundamental freedoms that have previously made Canada a great nation.”

Some individuals submitted sworn statements to the Court that they were arrested for allegedly violating the Order, while others said they witnessed peaceful protestors being afraid of fines or arrest.

"Even though the Order stated that citizens could engage in 'peaceful, lawful and safe protest' the Order still had a chilling effect on the peaceful exercise of Charter freedoms," continued Mr. Memauri.

Since the Order was granted, the Justice Centre has been assisting several individuals who had exercised their constitutional rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression at the rallies. These individuals shared significant concerns about the evidence put forward by the City, and inflammatory and disparaging Twitter comments made by newly elected City Councillor Courtney Walcott in March 8, 2022.

“Many of you are frustrated with public health measures and believe they were government overreach. I disagree with you, and that’s okay. Some of the people standing alongside you, leading you, endanger the safety of Calgarians and should be called out,” Mr. Walcott tweeted on March 8.

Earlier, on March 6, Mr. Walcott tweeted: “We all need to show up in our own capacity to fight the hate we’re seeing.” He added, “While I'm frustrated and angry at these weekly disruptions alongside you, it's the undercurrent of white supremacy that needs to be addressed… That's the battle we need to fight today.”

“While we are pleased that this restriction on Canadians’ right to freedom of expression and assembly guaranteed under the Charter is no longer in effect, we remain concerned with the City’s attempt at limiting peaceful disagreement with government and the unfounded accusations that were made about the protestors,” states Mr. Memauri.

“This case involved the rights of all citizens and is of significant public interest; we had requested cross-examination of the City’s witnesses," states Christa Nicholson of JSS Barristers, lead external counsel working with the Justice Centre on this matter. She added: “The discontinuance of the proceedings should be welcomed. Laws, bylaws and Criminal Code provisions are in existence that specify penalties for their breach. Whether the City was justified in urgently seeking Court intervention to obtain the Order with its wide-ranging implications for so many can no longer be tested.”

“Calgary city officials have made this move to drop the injunction, just ahead of the Calgary Flames’ playoffs, which are expected to draw hundreds or even thousands of hockey fans to the Beltline area around 17th Avenue known as the ‘Red Mile,’” states Mr. Memauri. “Is their right to freely celebrate playoffs more valuable than the rights of thousands of citizens to express how their lives have been impacted in the past two years?” concludes Mr. Memauri.

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