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(LifeSiteNews) –– Top constitutional lawyer John Carpay has blasted Calgary City Council for going to “war” against Canadians’ freedoms by using bylaws to target people’s ability to protest events at public facilities, including drag queen performance directed at children. 

In an opinion piece published on March 17 in the Western Standard, Carpay, who is the president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, said “freedom of expression is meaningless if citizens are only allowed to say what’s approved by the government, or if expression is banished from public spaces.” 

There already exists laws to prevent people from obstructing property,” wrote Carpay, noting that “When municipal politicians pass bylaws against behavior that is already criminal, they are merely virtue-signaling.”

In June 2022, Calgary City Council, under its left-leaning Mayor Jyoti Gondek, amended the city’s bylaws to “specifically prohibit insulting or demeaning behavior, including unwanted sexual advances, or harassing anyone on the basis of age, race, sexual orientation, disability, gender, gender identity or gender expression, among others.” 

About a month agoGondek vowed to use the bylaw to go after drag queen story hour protesters after some of the events were postponed by pro-family objectors. 

In early March, fulfilling her promise, Calgary City Council passed a bylaw that banned protesting against drag queen story hours or any other “LGBTQ” events held at public facilities. 

Calgary’s new “Safe and Inclusive Access Bylaw” disallows “specified protests” both inside and outside all city-owned and affiliated public buildings. Gondek put her full support behind the buffer zone bylaw.

The bylaw means pastors or concerned parents desiring to protest against pro-LGBT events at public buildings will be barred from getting within 100 meters of any such location. 

Those who are found guilty of breaking the new rules, which went into effect immediately, could face fines of up to $10,000 and one year in jail.

Carpay noted that while there are “limits to free speech,” such as not allowing a person to prevent “someone [from] going about their business and engaging in legal activities, such as entering and leaving public facilities and private buildings,” or causing a disturbance in a public place, “Canadians have every right to express their views in public places, regardless of the content of the expression.” 

He also wrote how a 1992 Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Zundel “explained all communications which convey or attempt to convey meaning are protected by the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms], unless the physical form by which the communication is made (for example, a violent act) excludes protection.” 

Carpay said that the “content” of the communication is “irrelevant.” 

“The purpose of the Charter’s free expression guarantee is to promote truth, self-fulfillment, and political and social participation. That purpose extends to the protection of minority beliefs which the majority regards as wrong or false,” wrote Carpay. 

According to Carpay, Gondek seems to “believe it is wrong or false to oppose drag queen story readings in public libraries.” 

“She is entitled to express her views, but not to impose her views on others by effectively banning peaceful public protests through a so-called ‘Safe and Inclusive Access’ bylaw,” noted Carpay. 

There exists a “freedom of expression” which includes the “right” to choose “high-visibility locations to hold up signs or banners, sing or chant, hand out literature, gather signatures on a petition, and have a speaker get up on her soapbox,” continued the lawyer. 

“Protests are often held at the locations where injustices (or perceived injustices) are actually occurring,” he added. 

Calgary using bylaws to arrest Christian pastor ‘amounts to crushing a fundamental Charter freedom,’ says lawyer  

In recent weeks, protests against drag queen story hours in Canada have increased, notably in the city of Calgary.  

Christian pastor Derek Reimer was jailed and charged for protesting a children’s drag queen story hour at a public library a few weeks ago in the city. 

He was released from a Calgary jail after he decided to sign bail papers to take care of an urgent medical condition. 

However, upon release, Reimer was forcefully arrested again by members of the Calgary Police Service (CPS) after appearing to breach his bail conditions by protesting the new bylaw that bans the type of demonstrations that caused his initial arrest. 

Reimer said his bail conditions from his first arrest prevent him from protesting at any drag events and that he must stay at least 500 meters away from where any drag or LGBTQ events are being held. 

“The bail conditions are public knowledge, not to protest, not to be at any drag event, any homosexual event, or contact any homosexual, or being on social media,” Reimer told LifeSiteNews at the time. 

He has his next court date on March 29, after being released today on bail a second time.  

Carpay wrote that the city council’s use of “coercive power to relegate peaceful protesters to obscure locations where they cannot be seen or heard,” amounts to “crushing a fundamental Charter freedom on which our democracy depends.” 

“The point of protests is to be seen and heard,” wrote Carpay. 

Carpay noted that being forced to stand 100 meters away from high-visibility and high-traffic areas “reduces freedom of expression to near irrelevance.” 

“Protecting entrances from obstruction is already taken care of by the Criminal Code, and does not require a bylaw that imposes up to $10,000 in fines and up to a year in jail for peacefully protesting less than the length of four swimming pools away from an entrance,” charged Carpay. 

According to Carpay, the Charter’s protection for free speech applies to those at the receiving end of a person speaking out.  

“Potential listeners who have the right to hear diverse points of view, and to decide for themselves what is true and false rather than having Mayor Gondek decide on their behalf,” said Carpay. 

“Calgary’s ‘Safe and Inclusive Access’ bylaw violates the rights of all Calgarians, speakers and listeners, and attacks diversity of thought and belief.” 

Carpay noted that “repressive regimes always take great pains to ensure their subjects are kept ‘safe’ from ideas which the regime believes to be wrong or false.” 

“In the past – and still today – those living in communist North Korea, national socialist Germany, theocratic Iran, Putin’s Russia, communist China and many other places have been kept very safe from ideas that the regime dislikes,” wrote Carpay.  

Carpay noted that in a “free society,” there is no way everyone can be “safe” from hearing one’s opposing views. 

“The ‘safety’ which woke activists on Calgary City Council are promising is attractive to those who support children being exposed to drag queens at public libraries,” wrote Carpay.

“But beware of the erosion of freedom, because the demons of censorship cannot be controlled after their release.” 

In addition to Carpay, the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) has also objected to the new bylaw, and has vowed to commence a legal challenge against the “unconstitutional” policy.