Council passes School Safe Zones Bylaw Amendment restricting advocacy messaging on public property near schools
Calgary City Council voted to pass an amendment to the Temporary Signs on Highways Bylaw (BYLAW NUMBER 29M97) to restrict advocacy messaging on public property near schools. With this, The City of Calgary initiates new regulations to protect young Calgarians from being a captive audience on school days.
Through engagement with The City of Calgary, schools described how certain large graphic signs have had a serious and negative impact on vulnerable students, as well as parents and teachers. Feedback also indicated that advocacy messaging positioned near schools had a distracting and harmful effect on the teaching/learning environment.
In the bylaw amendment, advocacy messaging is defined as messaging that publicly expresses an opinion on an issue or cause. Additionally, an advocacy group is defined as any group that promotes this type of messaging whether it be an external group or student group.
“This bylaw amendment was created to protect young Calgarians,” says Stacey McManaman, Business Strategist with The City of Calgary. “Advocacy messaging displayed near schools creates a captive audience of psychologically unprepared, often young and unwilling viewers of the messaging because they cannot avoid being exposed to it while coming and going from regular school activities and buildings.” says McManaman.
While freedom of expression is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a government may impose reasonable restrictions where there is proper justification for doing so.
“It is important to note, that the bylaw restrictions do not impose a ban on advocacy messaging, but rather restrict the size of the sign within a certain distance from the school, thereby mitigating the issue of a captive audience circumstance,” says McManaman.
On December 14, 2019 Council directed Administration to draft a bylaw to restrict advocacy messaging on public property around schools. The Municipal Government Act (MGA) grants The City of Calgary the authority to enact bylaws relating to the safety, health and welfare of people on or near a public place. This includes regulating activities that occur on The City’s public streets and sidewalks. The Temporary Signs on Highways Bylaw currently prohibits the placement of signs in certain areas, including playground and school zones.
The penalty for offence under the School Safe Zones Bylaw Amendment is a $1,000 fine for any person found to be displaying or carrying a sign with advocacy messaging, within 150 meters of a boundary of school grounds.
The bylaw will operate on a complaint basis – individuals or advocacy groups known or suspected to be engaging in this process can be reported by calling 311.
More information will be made available on Calgary.ca.