Alberta Queen’s Bench Upholds Whatcott Decision

The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta released the decision today in R. v. Whatcott, upholding the decision by the Provincial Court of Alberta, which held that William Whatcott’s s. 2(b) Charter rights were violated when the University of Calgary prevented him from distributing what was characterized as “anti-gay literature.”

Although the Crown appealed on the basis that the Charter did not apply to the enforcement of a university policy prohibiting the distribution of all printed material on campus without permission, regardless of content, the court focused on the use of provincial trespass legislation to respond to an individual complaint. The court affirmed the decision in Pridgen v. University of Calgary, discussed on Slaw previously here, that universities are not Charter-free zones.

The use of handcuffs, a pat-down search, and imprisonment of Mr. Whatcott was a disproportionate response to his peaceful distribution of flyers.

The case is worth noting given the Respondent’s similar activities elsewhere, most notably in Saskatchewan, where it was recently heard at the Supreme Court of Canada (decision pending).

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