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Vann Niagara Ltd. v. Oakville (Town), [2003] 3 S.C.R. 158, 2003 SCC 65


Corporation of the Town of Oakville                                                               Appellant




Vann Niagara Ltd.                                                                                         Respondent


Indexed as:  Vann Niagara Ltd. v. Oakville (Town)


Neutral citation:  2003 SCC 65.


File No.:  29359.


2003:  November 13.*


Present:  McLachlin C.J. and Iacobucci, Major, Bastarache, Binnie, Arbour, LeBel, Deschamps and Fish JJ.


on appeal from the court of appeal for ontario


Constitutional law — Charter of Rights  — Freedom of expression — Municipal by-law limiting size of billboards — Whether by-law infringes right to freedom of expression — If so, whether infringement justifiable — Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, ss. 1 , 2(b) .


Statutes and Regulations Cited


Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms , ss. 1 , 2( b ) .


APPEAL from a judgment of the Ontario Court of Appeal (2002), 60 O.R. (3d) 1, 161 O.A.C. 183, 214 D.L.R. (4th) 307, 94 C.R.R. (2d) 255, [2002] O.J. No. 2323 (QL), reversing a decision of the Superior Court of Justice (2001), 88 C.R.R. (2d) 166, 21 M.P.L.R. (3d) 183, [2001] O.J. No. 3794 (QL), dismissing the respondent’s application to quash a municipal by-law.  Appeal allowed.


George H. Rust-D’Eye, Barnet H. Kussner and Kim Mullin, for the appellant.


John A. Crossingham, for the respondent.


The judgment of the Court was delivered orally by


1                                   Arbour J. — There is no appeal from the unanimous decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal that the by-law prohibiting third party signs is unconstitutional.


2                                   We agree with MacPherson J.A. that the by‑law limiting the size of signs to 80 square feet (7.5 square meters) infringes s. 2( b )  of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms  but is saved under s. 1 as it minimally impairs the freedom of expression of the respondent.


3                                   The appeal is allowed, the judgment of the Court of Appeal on that issue is set aside and the constitutional questions** are answered in the affirmative.  The appellant will have its costs in this Court.  Each party will bear its own costs in the Court of Appeal.


Judgment accordingly.


Solicitors for the appellant:  WeirFoulds LLP, Toronto.


Solicitors for the respondent:  Crossingham, Brady, St. Catharines, Ontario.




* Revised January 20, 2004.

** On March 11, 2003, the following constitutional questions were stated by the Chief Justice:


1.                  Does s. 2(5)(a) of the Town of Oakville By-law No. 1994-142 infringe the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by s. 2( b )  of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ?


2.                  If so, is the infringement a reasonable limit, prescribed by law, as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society under s. 1  of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ?



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