I spent all of Wednesday morning and a bit of the afternoon (June 17,2009) in Ontario Provincial Court located just outside Hawkesbury, watching Jean-Serge Brisson defend himself against an aggressive Township run by a BULLY mayor.
The Ontario Township is Russell. The BULLY mayor is Ken Hill (AKA Kenny).
In June 2008, Kenny PUSHED into law a regulation that made it ILLEGAL to post a new commercial sign in any language other than both English and French. Or is it French and English?
Either way, both languages are required by Ken Hill’s law to appear TOGETHER in equal size.
In real terms, Ken Hill’s FORCED bilingual sign-law summarily strips away EVERYONE’S right to Freedom of Expression.
The Russell/Ken Hill sign-law is such an infringement on rights and common sense, that not only does it violate Section 2b of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms; it goes much further than that.
The way this odious and very poorly conceived law is written, it disallows all languages other than English and French from being used by individuals to express themselves commercially, since it ONLY speaks of English and French as having to be equal on all signs.
What happens if someone wants a sign in Italian?
It also violates jurisprudence that forbids laws to favor some, while discriminating against others, in this case by making it mandatory for all new signs to follow the law with an exception to existing signs. Why should owners of existing non-conforming signs get a free ride?
Then there’s the question about how much authority a municipality has?
No one debates the rights of municipalities to establish standards for the size, construction and location of signs – BUT THE MESSAGE?
If this law is left to stand, and Ken Hill wins the right to LEGISLATE language rights and culture, what then can Kenny NOT legislate?
Imagine, a pissant mayor like Ken Hill of Russell Township with the right to control your Freedom of Speech, who doesn’t even have the gonads to appear before Questioning on Discovery or take the stand to defend his OWN law?
Jean-Serge Brisson is French speaking in every way. And he doesn’t want Ken Hill or anyone else to tell him that he CANNOT EXPRESS HIMSELF EXCLUSIVELY IN THE FRENCH LANGUAGE.
Where does Ken Hill get off telling Brisson that his language (French) cannot be used without the inclusion of the English language of equal size?
The moment Hill broke the tied Council vote (2 for – 2 against) to FORCE this law upon the people of the Township of Russell; Brisson changed the message on his sign to French ONLY.
Brisson DIDN’T CHANGE THE STRUCTURE, THE SIZE, OR THE LOCATION. He simply changed the message. AND he applied for a permit that was not refused, but was also not granted. How’s that for strange?
It took no time at all before the Township charged Jean-Serge with changing a sign without a permit.
Because Kenny probably knew from past experiences that Brisson would defend himself (without a lawyer), he figured Jean-Serge would be easy pickings in court.
Surprise – Surprise when Jean-Serge kicked the Township’s ass in Municipal Court, where the Justice of the Peace ruled that the sign was not changed, and that the Township did not have the authority to control content.
Not taking no for an answer, Kenny ordered the Township to appeal, but this time with a legal gunslinger, Marc Labrosse, who I happen to think is a pleasant and bright young guy with a good future, as long as he stays away from cruddy cases like this one.
Also to note: Labrosse has been hired by a French Ontario Communities Organization to intervene against me in my case versus Russell. He should be careful about joining losing teams. It could become habitual.
The Appeal was interesting: The Judge was a no bull kind of guy who didn’t suffer fools or sermons from the antagonists. He asked straightforward questions demanding straightforward answers. No speeches.
Jean-Serge made a point of informing the Judge that he was French, Labrosse is French, the Judge is French, but everything the Township did against him, including the fine and the Factum of this case was in English.
How does the Township (Kenny), which is IMPOSING bilingualism on Private Enterprise in the guise of RESPECT square this circle?
Brisson decided to proceed in English, then he continued to illustrate that the Appeal Factum contained the language issue, which was NEVER argued in the preliminary trial.
Even a first year law student, or a fan of television law programs knows that you can’t enter evidence in an Appeal that was not argued in the case that is being appealed.
Therefore, a red face Labrosse withdrew the argument about the FORCED bilingual sign-law.
Based on the facts, the Provincial Appeals Court Judge (Levesque) ruled on behalf of Jean-Serge Brisson, ordering him to pay $25 for the permit he should have received on his first request.
The judge also volunteered that Jean-Serge was attacked not for making a structural change to his sign, but because of his change of content.
I believe this Judge ruled on behalf of Jean-Serge Brisson for several reasons.
1 – Jean-Serge did nothing that earned him the original fine.
2 – He too could see that Kenny was using his BULLY PULPIT as mayor to beat up and intimidate someone through the backdoor, because he didn’t have the gonads to come after Jean-Serge Brisson through the front door.
3 – Also, the sign in question has been where it is without any structural changes for 30 years. So why did the Township and Kenny start now?
Here’s a kicker: After the judge ordered Brisson to pay the $25, Russell Township Lawyer Labrosse told the Judge that he doubts the Township would accept the payment – WHAT?
And guess what? When Jean Serge Brisson went to pay the $25 permit fee at around 9:30 Friday morning (June 19, 2009) as ordered, with three witnesses in tow, one with a video camera, the bylaw enforcement officer demanded the camera be turned-off, and refused to accept the court-ordered $25 payment.
How much more over the top could this get?
And now, Kenny, who doesn’t have the courage of his own convictions to stand-up for his own onerous language law, is instructing, or agreeing with his overpriced legal counsel NOT to allow Brisson’s case to be joined to mine.
I wonder why?
And out of curiosity. We know that the Township is so far on the hook for WELL MORE than $50,000 on my case. How much did it cost the taxpayers of Russell Township to beat-up on a guy who didn’t deserve any part of the beating? $5000? – $10,000? – MORE?
Congratulations Jean-Serge. You’re a good man.
Best Regards . . . Howard Galganov