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Montreal?s updated take on postering draws mixed reactions

by admin September 21, 2010

Montreal?s updated take on postering draws mixed reactions

by admin September 21, 2010

Grassroots and cultural organizations around Montreal are breathing a cautious sigh of relief after the city announced last week that it would not contest a Quebec Court of Appeal decision which ruled that a bylaw rendering postering illegal violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The city of Montreal has made its position clear that it’s actually going to seek to accommodate postering in some way: by not contesting the ruling,” said Patricia Boushel, a representative for Montreal’s Coalition for Free Expression. COLLE is a group of local organizations, like Pop Montreal and the Fringe Festival, which formed last spring to try to open dialogue with the city and find out why there was no infrastructure in place for postering to happen on a more tolerated level.

However, the city’s decision to not contest the ruling does not mean that all postering is now legal. While an outright ban on postering violated the Charter, the municipal governments can still limit or restrict postering to certain designated areas.

In a statement released to the media by communications officer Gonzalo Nunez, the city noted that the court ruling does not specify how many designated postering locations need to be approved, and the bylaw doesn’t necessarily have to be removed in its entirety, just modified. Additionally, the current bylaw will only expire six months after the court handed down the ruling, or on Jan. 15, 2011.

“It doesn’t end here because they’re going to set up an infrastructure that you’re going to have to use,” said Boushel. “And if people don’t use that infrastructure and continue postering on anything or anywhere there’s still going to be postering fines, there’s just going to be fewer because there’s seemingly going to be a place for posters.”

A day after announcing they would not contest the ruling, the city also announced they would be increasing the quantity of public notice boards from under 50, to over 500. The idea of designated postering collars has also apparently been circulated as an alternative solution.

In its statement, the city also confirmed that discussions had taken place with some parties that had an interest in postering, one of which was COLLE.

“COLLE was principally consulted on the solution,” she said, though she admitted that they are not aware of what the city’s final approved system for postering will be.

Jaggi Singh, the local activist who brought the city to court challenging the validity of the bylaw in what turned out to be an almost decade-long effort, remains extremely sceptical of the whole idea of negotiating with the city over space he feels is a right of those who need it.

“Postering on poles and postering on mailboxes [is] a minimal way to permit grassroots artists, activists, grassroots voices in general to be heard,” Singh said. “So the so-called compromise between the city and some organizations is to me a sham because it’s a compromise on the ability for us to effectively and cheaply convey our ideas.”

Singh said that since his challenge proved the law to be invalid, those negotiating should instead be working to get the tens of thousands of dollars in fines he said social justice organizations, community groups and show spaces are facing declared null and void, and helping those already affected.

“If people were negotiating with a bit more savvy with the city,” Singh added, “then they would have asked for anybody who received tickets or had to pay a fine for postering over the last decade or so to have those fines reimbursed by the city.”

Regardless of the court’s ruling, or the city’s decision, Singh said he has never stopped, and will not stop postering.

“I don’t think anything has changed for people who believe in grassroots, DIY culture and that is that when we want to convey something, when we want to reach people, putting up a poster on a pole or a mailbox is an effective way to do so,” Singh said. “I have continued to do so ever since I got fined. I didn’t wait for any Supreme Court decision to allow that to happen and I think everyone else should do so as well.”

Others with interest in postering have taken a more cautious approach to the situation. After getting what he called a “pretty nasty fine” for postering, Jean-Francois Michaud, co-founder of Montreal-based concert production company Extensive Enterprise, wrote in an email his company “figured (they) wouldn’t fight against the MAN anymore.”

For the time being, Michaud said they would stick to flyers – they print well over 500,000 a year – but added that “Whenever postering is allowed again, we’ll start postering again.”

Despite winning his challenge, the postering issue clearly goes beyond a legal concern for Singh, and actually represents a way of life in the city of Montreal.

“We need to have our own autonomous ways of expressing our events, our ideas, our culture without having to have that mediated by anyone,” Singh said. “That’s what makes urban living so interesting and so vibrant, the fact that there’s that level of spontaneity.”

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Grassroots and cultural organizations around Montreal are breathing a cautious sigh of relief after the city announced last week that it would not contest a Quebec Court of Appeal decision which ruled that a bylaw rendering postering illegal violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The city of Montreal has made its position clear that it’s actually going to seek to accommodate postering in some way: by not contesting the ruling,” said Patricia Boushel, a representative for Montreal’s Coalition for Free Expression. COLLE is a group of local organizations, like Pop Montreal and the Fringe Festival, which formed last spring to try to open dialogue with the city and find out why there was no infrastructure in place for postering to happen on a more tolerated level.

However, the city’s decision to not contest the ruling does not mean that all postering is now legal. While an outright ban on postering violated the Charter, the municipal governments can still limit or restrict postering to certain designated areas.

In a statement released to the media by communications officer Gonzalo Nunez, the city noted that the court ruling does not specify how many designated postering locations need to be approved, and the bylaw doesn’t necessarily have to be removed in its entirety, just modified. Additionally, the current bylaw will only expire six months after the court handed down the ruling, or on Jan. 15, 2011.

“It doesn’t end here because they’re going to set up an infrastructure that you’re going to have to use,” said Boushel. “And if people don’t use that infrastructure and continue postering on anything or anywhere there’s still going to be postering fines, there’s just going to be fewer because there’s seemingly going to be a place for posters.”

A day after announcing they would not contest the ruling, the city also announced they would be increasing the quantity of public notice boards from under 50, to over 500. The idea of designated postering collars has also apparently been circulated as an alternative solution.

In its statement, the city also confirmed that discussions had taken place with some parties that had an interest in postering, one of which was COLLE.

“COLLE was principally consulted on the solution,” she said, though she admitted that they are not aware of what the city’s final approved system for postering will be.

Jaggi Singh, the local activist who brought the city to court challenging the validity of the bylaw in what turned out to be an almost decade-long effort, remains extremely sceptical of the whole idea of negotiating with the city over space he feels is a right of those who need it.

“Postering on poles and postering on mailboxes [is] a minimal way to permit grassroots artists, activists, grassroots voices in general to be heard,” Singh said. “So the so-called compromise between the city and some organizations is to me a sham because it’s a compromise on the ability for us to effectively and cheaply convey our ideas.”

Singh said that since his challenge proved the law to be invalid, those negotiating should instead be working to get the tens of thousands of dollars in fines he said social justice organizations, community groups and show spaces are facing declared null and void, and helping those already affected.

“If people were negotiating with a bit more savvy with the city,” Singh added, “then they would have asked for anybody who received tickets or had to pay a fine for postering over the last decade or so to have those fines reimbursed by the city.”

Regardless of the court’s ruling, or the city’s decision, Singh said he has never stopped, and will not stop postering.

“I don’t think anything has changed for people who believe in grassroots, DIY culture and that is that when we want to convey something, when we want to reach people, putting up a poster on a pole or a mailbox is an effective way to do so,” Singh said. “I have continued to do so ever since I got fined. I didn’t wait for any Supreme Court decision to allow that to happen and I think everyone else should do so as well.”

Others with interest in postering have taken a more cautious approach to the situation. After getting what he called a “pretty nasty fine” for postering, Jean-Francois Michaud, co-founder of Montreal-based concert production company Extensive Enterprise, wrote in an email his company “figured (they) wouldn’t fight against the MAN anymore.”

For the time being, Michaud said they would stick to flyers – they print well over 500,000 a year – but added that “Whenever postering is allowed again, we’ll start postering again.”

Despite winning his challenge, the postering issue clearly goes beyond a legal concern for Singh, and actually represents a way of life in the city of Montreal.

“We need to have our own autonomous ways of expressing our events, our ideas, our culture without having to have that mediated by anyone,” Singh said. “That’s what makes urban living so interesting and so vibrant, the fact that there’s that level of spontaneity.”

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