“My lawyers issued a warning not to proceed with this unlawful conduct, as did I. The City went forward despite these warning. This is not the first unlawful attack on me by the City.”
A Mayoral candidate in the City of North Vancouver is dragging the city to court over what he claims to be unlawful removal of his signs. For the last three years, CNV Mayoral candidate Kerry Morris has used his bike racks signs to criticise the City of North Vancouver on traffic, density, campaign donations and everything in between. He was never questioned by the city’s contractor on the message on the signs as long as he paid his dues.
Even when he signed on three years ago, the contractor hired by the city, C-Media, made no mention of what he could and could not post on the signs. But his latest signs announcing his candidacy for Mayor prompted an email from city asking him to remove his signs.
The clerk told him the sign was in contravention of the election signage policy as the signs can only be displaced after nominations have closed, September 21, in this case. He could, the city told him, post anything he wishes to but nothing related to elections campaigning.
Morris refused to take down the signs because he says they only stated that he wanted to run for Mayor and didn’t in any way solicit votes. The city has since ordered its contractor to remove the signs. Now, Morris is taking the city to court after what he claims is an unlawful removal of his signs.
“My lawyers issued a warning not to proceed with this unlawful conduct, as did I. The City went forward despite these warning. This is not the first unlawful attack on me by the City. But it is the first in which I have decided to take legal action. Enough is enough,” he said. Morris doesn’t buy the city’s assertion that the signs contravened the bylaw. “The precise wording of the latest sign was run past by our lawyer to ensure compliance and they don’t breach the policy which is not a bylaw and has dubious weight in law,” he said.
The city, however, wasn’t convinced by his arguments. The clerk said election signs are clearly defined in the sign bylaw, which states that signs that advertise a political part or a candidate in the municipal or the federal level can only be allowed after the close of nominations. Morris, however, is defiant and sees the city’s move as an infringement on his freedom of expression and charter rights. He says there is legal precedence on this issue where a BC court ruled in a similar case that such signs can’t be interpreted as election signs.
“The city engaged a bylaw that does not apply in to me under its election sign definition, or at all in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Freedoms and Rights. In ordering the removal of my signs in the pre-election period, the City has willfully chosen to breach the Canadian Charter of Freedoms and Rights, the highest protection for our freedom of speech in Canada. They may not like my signs but they can’t take away my right to speak freely,” he said.
Councillor Rod Clark made his displeasure about the law suit known in a tweet: “So Mayor Wannabe, Kerry Morris is now suing the very same City he wants to represent. Interesting choice from a litigious zealot with no elected or volunteer experience in the community.”
Morris says this fight is about freedom of expression and rights. “Over 80 million people gave their lives during the Second World War for the democratic principles and freedoms contained in the Canadian Charter of Freedoms and Rights. We each have an obligation to hold governments who attack those principles to account. In taking on the City for its unlawful conduct I am doing just that,” he said
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