The Superior Court confirmed, in a judgment rendered Wednesday, the decision of the City of Mirabel to limit the distribution of Publisac on its territory, to the chagrin of TC Transcontinental, which intends to appeal the decision.
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In 2019, the City adopted a by-law that required citizens to voluntarily join to receive the Publisac. TC Transcontinental, the company that owns the Publisac, reacted by calling the measure “illegal” and deciding to sue the City.
For the company, the “opt-out” system, allowing a red sticker to be placed so as not to receive the Publisac, was sufficient. According to the City, however, several citizens complained about receiving the printed advertisements despite this.
In his decision, Judge Jean-Yves Lalonde acknowledges that the company was not consulted before the adoption of the by-law, but in his view, “nothing in the law” required the municipality to do so.
“[C’]is a regulation of public interest justified by the desire to reduce the management of residual materials and promote the cleanliness of the territory. These are preponderant environmental issues that do not require a large degree of prior expertise before concluding that these are issues favorable to the well-being of citizens,” he wrote in his decision.
TC Transcontinental also argued that the settlement was unreasonable, in particular because Canada Post is not subject to it. However, the latter is the responsibility of the federal government.
“The Court concludes that the adoption of By-law 2326 is completely proportional to the environmental issues which are at the heart of the municipal policy advocated by Mirabel”, is it also mentioned.
The argument of the infringement of freedom of expression was also swept away, the Court indicating that it is not an “absolute right”.
“MTC is not immune to any sacrifice or compromise in the exercise of its right to free expression if in the balance other societal issues require it,” ruled the judge.
In his decision, he recalls that the protection of the environment has become a fundamental value in society.
“The beneficial effects of By-Law 2326 far outweigh the as yet unknown detrimental effects that could arise from the minimal impairment of MTC’s free speech,” the judgment said.
This judgment upset TC Transcontinental, which quickly announced that it would appeal.
“We are disappointed with the Court’s decision, and we will challenge it on appeal,” said Patrick Brayley, Senior Vice President, Distribution, TC Transcontinental, in a press release.
“In the current inflationary context, and at a time when the population must face unprecedented price increases, the social and economic relevance of the Publisac is greater than ever,” added Mr. Brayley, pleading that the bag of advertising inserts is useful for merchants and customers.
The publisacs are also used to distribute many local newspapers, he recalled.
This judgment brings water to the mill of the City of Montreal, which adopted a similar regulation at the beginning of the month in order to limit the distribution of Publisac on its territory from next year.
The decision was well received by the office of Mayor Valérie Plante.
“Today’s judgment clearly reflects the desire of citizens and municipalities to accelerate the ecological transition, for which reduction at source plays a central role,” said Catherine Cadotte, press officer for the mayor.