Christopher Lewis

Surrey parks bylaw faces court challenge

Resident says legislation banning park use at night violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A Surrey bylaw is under attack on the basis that it violates fundamental Canadian rights.

Christopher Lewis has been warned and fined for walking in Surrey parks at night. The city has ramped up its enforcement of the bylaw, issuing 16 tickets in 2005 and 314 in 2013.

Surrey’s manager of bylaws told The Leader that dropped down to 151 last year, but couldn’t explain the decrease right away.

Lewis says he likes to walk in the city’s green spaces to decompress after a day’s work, or to pace off sleeplessness.

He is taking the city to court over a section of Bylaw #13480, which prohibits being in a park after dark.

Lewis has written a 10-page challenge of the bylaw, arguing it violates two sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In his challenge, sent to the city and attorneys-general of B.C. and Canada, Lewis contends the bylaw violates Section 7, which ensures the right to “life, liberty and security,” and Section 9, which ensures the right not to be “arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.”

Lewis, who works as an inspector of pressurized pipes, said in his submission that people are being forced to travel on dark streets, at night, where  being hit by a car is becoming increasingly likely.

He contends that’s a violation of Section 7.

He believes every time people are stopped by police or bylaw officers, their right to freedom from being arbitrarily detained is being violated – a violation of Section 9.

The 27-year-old, who does not have legal experience, cites case law to back up his arguments.

In Regina v. Oakes (1986), Chief Justice Dickson ruled on proportional means.

To that end: “the means must be rationally connected to the objective; there must be minimal impairment of rights (and) there must be proportionality between the infringement and the objective.”

Lewis believes the Surrey bylaw fails on all three counts.

“A blanket ban on everyone from parks at night is not rationally connected with just targeting vandalism,” the challenge says.

Vandalism is often the rationale given for the necessity of the bylaw.

“There is a complete lack of proportionality between the infringement and the objective,” he writes.

Benjie Lee, the City of Surrey lawyer handling the case, said he could not comment on the case as it’s before the courts.

Lewis and the city are back in Surrey Provincial Court on Tuesday, April 28.


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