Stapling a poster to a Saint-Viateur hydro pole
A Quebec Court of Appeal judge has ruled that Montreal’s anti-postering bylaw, which prohibits posters from being stuck to public street furniture, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Montreal will now have to find a way to legally accommodate posters on public property.
We have local activist Jaggi Singh to thank for this ruling. Ten years ago, he was charged with sticking a poster on municipal property, and with the help of civil rights lawyer Julius Grey, he took his case through the court system. He was finally acquitted last week. The implications for Montreal are profound: independent musicians, artists, community groups and political movements, who have faced thousands of dollars in fines for sticking posters on lampposts and hydro poles, are now free to do what they’ve been doing for years.
Bengali poster, Park Extension
It’s hard to overstate the advantages of postering. As a means of advertising, it’s cheap, direct and locally-targeted, which is perfect for anyone who doesn’t have much money and who is promoting something to a niche or neighbourhood audience. For a community group, sticking a poster on lamppost is a far more effective and equitable way of spreading a message than posting an item on an online discussion board.
Until now, the only place you could legally stick a poster was on a construction hoarding, a loophole in the law that was ruthlessly exploited by a single advertising firm, Publicité sauvage, which had spent years lobbying the city for just such an exception. With hoardings covered by large commercial posters for cars, soft drinks and big-ticket cultural events, everyone else was left to stick their posters on public property, which put them at risk for receiving a fine.
Legal postering space — dominated by one advertising firm
The sheer abundance of posters on streets like Saint-Viateur suggests that the law wasn’t very strictly enforced, but in recent years the city has become more aggressive in fining music promoters whose concerts are advertised on public property. According to a recent article in Hour, Montreal’s independent cultural producers have collectively been fined more than $215,000 over the past two years.
Now that the Court of Appeals has ruled Montreal’s postering law unconstitutional, the question is how the city will now accommodate postering on public property. One approach would be to create dedicated poster kiosks, a solution adopted by many cities around the world, including Paris, whose turn-of-the-century poster kiosks are as much as emblem of the city as Hector Guimard’s metro entrances. Another way would be to follow Vancouver, which puts casts around the its lampposts, providing legal postering space that is cleared every week by municipal workers.
A poster cast on a Vancouver lamppost
At a time when more and more social activity takes place online and a majority of people live in car-dependent suburbs, posters are a flamboyant sign that pedestrian culture is still alive, that the streets are still the agora they were meant to be. If the city can refrain itself from passing a new law to regulate posters, if it can somehow find the will to just do nothing and let posters exist in a grey area, neither legal nor illegal — I think we would have the perfect solution to the problem.
UPDATE: Le Devoir is reporting that the city wants to install 500 “espaces d’affichage” on public property: “Ainsi, des modules circulaires de 22 pouces de diamètres, un peu comme un moulin à prières utilisé par les bouddhistes tibétains, fixés à des poteaux ou des lampadaires, permettraient d’agrafer des affiches de 11 sur 17 pouces.”
La Presse has more details on the city’s plan. It also reports that the city will continue to enforce its law until it decides whether to challenge the court’s decision.
Jack Dylan concert poster, Mile End
Promoting a show by Moroccan actress Khadija Assad, Villeray
Schach for sukkot, Mile End