Ontario Court Rules, in Neo-nazi Case, That ‘abusive Language’ Can Be Banned in Parks

A three-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled, in a case involving a local neo-Nazi, that a municipality has the right to ban “abusive language” in its parks and that such a restriction is not an infringement on the right of free speech.

The ruling involved the arrest of John Beattie for violating a city parks by-law banning the use of “profane, indecent or abusive language in a city park.” Most of the “abusive language” used by Beattie, according to the arresting police, was an attack on Jews. The magistrate declined to hear the charges, ruling that it was beyond the power of the city to enact such legislation. The ruling was appealed.

The three-judge panel held that the obligation of the municipality to regulate use of a public park permitted action to ensure that “the enjoyment of the tranquility of such parks will not be disturbed for those who resort to them for quiet contemplating or peaceful recreation and exercise.” The panel also held that the municipal ban was not an encroachment on criminal law. The panel held that if freedom of speech was “a domain exclusively within Federal jurisdiction,” the by-law could not therefore be ruled invalid because “it does not restrain the communication of ideas.”

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