Church vs City freedom of expression, anti-SLAPP in the BCCA, and Métis heritage in sentencing
This week on Legally Speaking with Michael Mulligan:
The City of New Westminster cancelled a meeting room rental that had been booked by The Redeemed Church of God for a "Youth Conference".
The City of New Westminster has a booking policy that “restricts or prohibits user groups if they promote racism, hate, violence, censorship, crime or unethical pursuits.”
Following an email complaint that the Youth Conference would be an anti-LGBTQ event, the City of New Westminster made some online inquiries and determined that a speaker at the event had a large profile on social media and recent Facebook postings expressing anti-LGBTQ views.
As a result, The City of New Westminster cancelled the room rental.
The Redeemed Church of God complained about the cancellation and ultimately filed a petition in the BC Supreme Court to, amongst other things, ask that the cancellation be judicially reviewed and reversed.
The request for judicial review was denied on the basis that the room rental was a contractual arrangement and not subject to judicial review.
The judge hearing the case did, however, find that the City of New Westminster had breached The Redeemed Church of God’s right to freedom of expression because the city didn’t take sufficient steps to inform itself about the anticipated content of the Youth Conference to permit a balancing of competing rights to be conducted before making the decision to cancel the room booking.
Also on the show, a decision from the BC Court of Appeal will allow a defamation claim against a former employee of a Vancouver cryptocurrency company to proceed to trial.
The former employee had previously been successful in having the case dismissed pursuant to the Protection of Public Participation Act.
This act, which was introduced in 2019, is intended to prevent unmeritorious civil claims from being used to prevent public criticism.
The Court of Appeal concluded that the judge who dismissed the claim made a mistake in dismissing the claim because, if defamation is proven, damages are presumed to have occurred.
Finally, another Court of Appeal decision dealing with a sentence appeal by a Métis woman who was sentenced to nine months in jail for an assault causing bodily harm conviction is discussed.
The appeal was premised in part on an argument that the sentencing judge had failed to give adequate consideration to the woman’s background, which is expressly required by section 718.2 (e) of the Criminal Code.
That section requires that “all available sanctions, other than imprisonment, that are reasonable in the circumstances and consistent with the harm done to victims or to the community should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders.”
In this case, the Court of Appeal concluded that that judge was not required to do more than they had, given the absence of information concerning the impact the woman’s Métis heritage had on her difficult background.
Follow this link for a transcript of the show and links to the cases discussed.