One day before proceedings were set to begin, the City of Montreal withdrew its case against the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) over a $2,500 postering fine. AUS is no longer responsible for either the fine itself or any court fees associated with the case.
AUS was charged for violating a city by-law which prohibits public posting in February 2010 after the Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society (AUTS) posted a flyer on the corner of University and Milton promoting their upcoming production of Cabaret.
Dave Marshall, AUS president, said that the courts did not have a “substantial enough case to continue prosecuting.” Marshall also said that, since AUS didn’t put up the poster, they never should have been the target of the fine in the first place.
Marshall explained that the City would have had to have found all the individuals who put up the poster, and found evidence that they had put the poster up, in order to fine them.
“The AUTS doesn’t exist as a legal entity, it’s just an informal group of students,” said Marshall. “It makes it very easy to go after us [the AUS] though, because we are a legal entity.”
Marshall said that this clear distinction between AUTS, who put up the poster, and AUS, would have been his main argument in court against the fine.
Marshall’s other defense challenged the constitutionality of the by-law prohibiting public posting, a law Marshall said was created in the nineties for the benefit of cleanliness.
“[The law] severely restricts the ability of groups to express themselves, particularly when the fine for a non-profit company such as us is as steep as it was,” said Marshall.
Marshall entered a not guilty plea on behalf of AUS in May of last year. Three months later in July, however, the by-law under which AUS was charged was declared invalid by the Quebec Court of Appeal, who had found it a violation of the Canadian Charter or Rights and Freedoms, for a period of six months.
“I think the justification behind making the law invalid…was to either have them revise the law so that it was less unconstitutional…or [to create] an opportunity during that six months for the City to put up more notice boards, more legal opportunities, for people to post so that they’re not completely restricted,” said Marshall.
“The reason that it was declared invalid for six months is really to force the City with a very strict timeline to revise that law. I haven’t found any indication that the City has actually done that yet,” he said.