Supreme Court of Canada upholds union’s right to public demonstration

Workers had been fined for delaying traffic but higher courts disagreed

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a union’s right to public demonstration despite complaints from the public the demonstrations interfered with their freedom to move about.

In September 2003, a group of workers from the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Montreal had a demonstration that blocked traffic. Several citizens filed a claim for compensation for inconvenience suffered from the demonstration.

The Quebec Superior Court ordered 435 workers who participated in the demonstration to each pay a fine of between $25 and $35. However, the workers appealed and the Quebec Court of Appeal threw out the fines, ruling the right to travel by car without suffering undue delay was not protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The citizens appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, but the complaint stopped there when the court refused to hear the appeal.

Michel Parent, president of the workers’ union, CUPE 301, saw the refusal to hear the appeal as an endorsement of the workers’ rights for labour action in public.

“This court decision enshrines our right to demonstrate,” said Parent.

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