SURREY — A Surrey provincial court judge has upheld a City of Surrey bylaw prohibiting people from being in public parks between dusk and dawn after it was challenged on grounds it violated Charter rights.
The case was called City of Surrey versus Christopher Lewis, with Lewis representing himself.
Judge Peder Gulbransen heard Lewis had gone for a walk in Bakerview Park in South Surrey shortly after midnight on Nov. 13, 2013. Someone called police to complain and an officer was dispatched. Knowing he was violating a city bylaw prohibiting people from being in a park between dusk and dawn, and expecting an officer to show up, Lewis waited and told the officer he wouldn’t leave until he was given a violation ticket, which he then challenged in court on grounds it violated his rights under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
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Section 7 says everyone “has a right to life, liberty and the security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”
Violating the city bylaw carries a fine of $50 to $2,000 or three months in prison.
Gulbransen found that although Lewis “believes passionately” that enjoying a peaceful walk in a park at night “involves a very significant exercise of his right to liberty, it is not obvious to me that this activity involves a fundamental notion of human dignity or a decision of fundamental personal importance.”
The judge noted laws restricting activities, such as opening liquor in public or prohibiting dogs from being unleashed, are “not unusual in urban society.
“Whether someone should be prohibited from choosing to walk in the park at night is just not an issue of fundamental personal importance.”
Lewis argued the bylaw is too broad because it lumps law-abiding citizens together with troublemakers who would party, light bonfires, dump trash or deal drugs in parks at night. Law enforcers should focus on these instead, he argued.
But Gulbransen noted the city holds its parks in trust for local residents and found its bylaw to be a “reasonable law” enacted within the city’s power to regulate land under its jurisdiction.
“It is unrealistic to expect the City of Surrey to spend relatively large sums of money to provide resources to monitor in detail what goes on at parks at night,” the judge said.