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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Former Libertarian leader Brisson wins his case against mandatory bilingual sign bylaw

Jean-serge-shadow150 On Friday, Jean-Serge Brisson, former Libertarian Party leader, won his court case against the mandatory bilingual sign bylaw in Russell, Ontario.

Brisson received a fine from the municipality of Russell for putting up a sign on his business in French-only in violation of a bylaw passed in June making it mandatory for all exterior signs to be in both official languages. The bylaw offended English rights advocates like those with Canadians for Language Fairness, and it also offended Brisson, a Francophone, who immediately set out to erect a French-only sign to challenge the bylaw.

Because of the some ambiguity in the bylaw with respect to the maintenance of existing signs, Brisson won his case on a technicality. That’s not, however, how Brisson wanted things to go down. When he attempted to challenge the absurdity of the law itself, the judge immediately said that he did not have the authority to deal with that particular matter and would not entertain Brisson’s argument.

In the end, a win is a win. Brisson thumbed his freedom-loving nose at the bad law and won.

“So now I’m hoping that the people who were waiting for this decision to come about will start calling the municipality of Russell and complain that I have a sign in one language only, French, and that it is infringing on the bylaw that makes it illegal to have a sign that does not have both official languages on it,” said Brisson.

Brisson is no stranger to civil disobedience. According to his Wikipedia page:

He spent twenty days in jail in 2000 after being convicted of driving while under suspension for not paying a seatbelt-related charge dating back to 1989, and was placed in solitary confinement after starting a hunger strike. At the time of his incarceration, his unpaid fines relating to seatbelt violations and driving while under suspension totalled over $12,000.

Brisson has also not submitted an income tax return since 1991, has never collected the federal Goods and Services Tax (GST), and has not collected the provincial sales tax since 1991.

Brisson resigned as Libertarian Party leader in May to focus on Ontario provincial politics with the Ontario Libertarian Party. He is currently serving a 90-day sentence on weekends for his ongoing refusal to wear a seatbelt.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 21, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink


I wonder if Brisson has the option of taking the case to a higher court even though he 'won', in order to bring light to the parts of the bylaw that he disagrees with.

Seems silly that there are parts of Ontario where storefront signs don't need to be in -either- official language, and then other areas where they need to be in both.

Posted by: Alex T | 2008-12-21 8:03:04 AM

Jean Serge has been a crusader against meaningless laws for some time now. And he's won a few. The local police have stopped trying to make him wear a seatbelt and he doesn't pay GST.
If only we all had the fortitude to challenge laws of "control".

Go Jean Serge!

Posted by: JC | 2008-12-21 8:50:30 AM

I would like to see him win that one in Quebec with an English only sign. That would be a real achievement.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2008-12-21 2:23:34 PM

This just in. Apparently the courts haven't finished with him and his seat belt revolt. Good Luck Jean Serge.

Posted by: JC | 2008-12-23 7:26:03 PM

Congratulations to Jean-Serge Brisson for his integrity and tenacity at fighting an absurdly ridiculous and out of control system. But there must be a better way than inflicting unjust jail terms and fines on himself while corrupt bureaucrats get paid for abusing (perverting) the law and abusing innocent people like Jean-Serge Brisson. The guilty parties do not seem to suffer, somehow we must find a way to make them pay through lawsuits for judicial fraud... abuse of power...

Posted by: Rick Blatter | 2009-01-08 12:19:03 PM

lets not forget corruption !

Posted by: Rick Blatter | 2009-01-08 12:24:46 PM

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