Noise ticket violates Edmonton street preacher's charter rights: advocacy group

EDMONTON — A legal advocacy organization says it will be representing a street preacher who was issued a ticket under a noise bylaw that the group alleges goes against his freedom of expression.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms says Dale Malayko, a retired firefighter, was given the $250 ticket last June when he and a colleague were preaching at an Edmonton street corner in an area popular with pedestrians on the city's south side.

Malayko, who stands on a wooden box with mounted small speakers that are connected to a wireless mic, was fined after a nearby business owner made a noise complaint, the group said.

"Noise bylaws are legitimate and serve a useful purpose, such as ensuring residents get a good night's sleep, instead of being woken up at 3 a.m. by their lawn-mowing neighbour or a dog that never stops barking," James Kitchen, a lawyer for the justice centre, said in a statement Monday.

"But (police are) abusing Edmonton's noise bylaw in an attempt to pander to complainants who seek to silence forms of expression they disapprove of."

The justice centre said it is taking Malayko's case pro bono and will argue that he is not guilty because he was "peacefully expressing himself in a manner and place that is protected by the Constitution."

It also argues that unlike street performers, Malayko doesn't ask for money from passersby and offers Bibles to those who want them.

"(Edmonton police) officers have a long history of issuing baseless tickets — that are not justified by the facts — to Dale and other street preachers, all of which have previously been dropped by city prosecutors."

Malayko's three-day trial is set for the first week in April.

The group, which is also representing other street preachers, sent a letter to Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee in November shortly after his swearing in, expressing concern about officers allegedly targeting them.

"This pattern continues to repeat itself, thereby violating the charter freedoms of our clients and also causing them great inconvenience," the letter read.

The Edmonton Police Service said it was declining to comment because the case is before the courts.

Cherie Klassen, executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association, said in an email she wasn't aware of how many shops and restaurants have had issues with street preachers.

"Noise on the avenue overall is often an issue for both patrons and businesses in our area," said Klassen, whose association has about 600 members in the area.

"It's tough to say whether or not the street preachers contribute to this."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2020

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press