Christopher Lewis stands in the park where he was fined for being after dark. A judge just ruled Surrey's bylaw does not infringe on his Constitutional rights.

Judge upholds Surrey bylaw banning people being in parks after dark

Christopher Lewis challenged the law on constitutional grounds.

A challenge of Surrey’s park bylaw has failed, but the man who challenged it says the law will be overturned eventually.

On Nov. 13, 2013, Christopher Lewis, now 28, was ticketed in Bakerview Park for being in a park after dark.

Just by being there, he was in contravention of a Surrey Bylaw 13480 and was fined $200.

Lewis took the city to court over the fine, saying it was in contravention of his Section 7 Constitutional “right to life, liberty and security.”

He appeared before Judge Peder Gulbransen in Surrey Provincial Court four times between Aug. 7, 2015 and Jan. 12, 2016.

Lewis said a park is a truly open and public space, just like a highway or a sidewalk.

“As it is presently worded, the bylaw treats peaceful law-abiding citizens as though they were persons committing committing unlawful acts,” Lewis argued. “The law is both arbitrary and over-broad.”

Gulbransen felt it was the best legal argument by Lewis, who was representing himself at court.

However, Gulbransen cited case law in stating why the law was not over-broad.

In fact, he found in a written ruling on Feb. 5 that Surrey could be placed in a legally tenuous situation if it failed in protecting citizens in parks at night.

“Without setting up artificial lighting and making sure there are no obvious hazards to users who might not see such hazards at night, the city would be a ‘sitting duck’ in lawsuits for any injuries which resulted to persons using the park art night,” Gulbransen found.

He found that even if not being allowed in a park after dark was in violation of Lewis’ rights to liberty, it is not in contravention of the “principles of fundamental justice,” which is the latter part of Section 7.

Reached by phone in Alberta where he is working, Lewis, now a White Rock resident, told The Leader he was disappointed with the judge’s ruling.

“It’s annoying that the bylaw is still standing,” Lewis said, describing the challenge as a learning experience.

He will pay the fine, but feels Surrey is getting carried away with fines issued in park. The number of fines issued tripled between 2005 and 2014, according to a Freedom of Information request.

Lewis said eventually, someone with legal wherewithal, is going to challenge Surrey’s bylaw and win.

In the meantime, if there is such a bylaw in White Rock, he says he’s not being bothered by it.

 

 

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