William Whatcott enters the Calgary Court Centre in November 2011 to learn his verdict for a charge of trespassing at the University of Calgary.
Photograph by: Archive , Calgary HeraldJudge upholds anti-gay protester’s right to hand out pamphlets at U of C
By Daryl Slade,
Calgary Herald March 31, 2012
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A judge has dismissed a Crown appeal of a judicial stay for an Edmonton man’s trespassing charge for distributing anti-gay pamphlets at the University of Calgary nearly four years ago.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Paul Jeffrey heard arguments by Crown prosecutor Andrew Barg on Friday, but told defence lawyer Dale Fedorchuk he did not have to hear from him, then dismissed the appeal against William Whatcott.
Jeffrey told the lawyers he would give written reasons to follow for upholding the ruling last year of provincial court Judge John Bascom.
“Judge Bascom’s decision has been effectively upheld and remains good law,” Fedorchuk said outside court.
Bascom found in his Nov. 15 ruling that Whatcott’s charter right to freedom of expression was infringed when he was stopped by campus security for handing out the leaflets on July 25, 2008.
The Crown’s primary ground for appeal was that the trial judge “erred in law in ruling that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies in the circumstances of this case.”
Alternatively, the notice of appeal said the judge either erred in law in finding that the University of Calgary infringed Whatcott’s charter rights or that the trial judge erred in his application of a section of the charter.
The Crown had been seeking either a conviction on the charge, stemming from the alleged trespassing violation against Whatcott, or a new trial.
Whatcott had previously been given an indefinite ban from setting foot on the campus, stemming from a similar incident on Jan. 16, 2005, when he was cited for handing out anti-abortion flyers.
That ban was also lifted by Bascom when he issued the stay of proceedings.
Bascom had concluded in his decision that “preventing the peaceful distribution of leaflets that an individual attendee finds offensive does not relate to an objective that is pressing and substantial.”
“It is therefore not of sufficient importance to override a constitutionally protected right,” said Bascom, adding he found that banning Whatcott was arbitrary and unfair.
Bascom had determined the means used by campus security halted Whatcott’s distribution of the flyers and violated his right of free firstname.lastname@example.org
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