Judge finds Qualicum Beach picketer not guilty

This may be the last of the fallout from the 2015 labour dispute in Qualicum Beach

The final chapter in the 2015 Qualicum Beach lockout may have been written by a traffic court judge.

A picketer has been found not guilty of a traffic offence during the lockout.

The labour dispute ended up in traffic court this June when two picketers challenged tickets issued by the RCMP for failing to yield to a vehicle when not in a crosswalk under Sec. 180 of the Motor Vehicle Act.

One of the tickets was withdrawn in June and on Aug. 10. Justice H.W. Gordon found Laurence Amy not guilty.

In his six-page decision, Gordon described the facts of the case as “straight forward and not in dispute,” describing the situation covered by The NEWS at the time in which picketers blocked a garbage truck — driven by the town’s chief financial officer John Marsh — from entering the Church Road transfer station for about 15 minutes.

Police attended the scene and issued the tickets the next day after seeing dashboard video of the interaction, provided to the RCMP by the town.

“Intuitively, section 180 could not have been intended to apply to what would appear to be a legal (or not illegal) picket line in a labour dispute,” Gordon wrote, adding that, “picketing is a right of expression under the common law and protected under section 2(b) of the charter.”

Gordon said he took a different approach than Amy, who argued he wasn’t guilty because he was on private property and not trespassing in front of the vehicle.

“This right of expression (picketing) is taken to be legal until determined by a competent court or tribunal to be illegal,” Gordon said, adding, “a picketer in a labour relations dispute is not a pedestrian in a common understanding sense.”

Gordon didn’t think the case belonged in court at all, saying, “The facts of this case raise a labour relations issue, and frankly should be decided in a labour relations forum or context and do not raise a motor vehicle issue…”

“In my view, the Motor Vehicle Act, in this case, is an inappropriate tool to aid one party in advancing its position in a labour dispute.”

In June, CUPE local 401 president Blaine Gurrie had told The NEWS he was surprised the town was still pursuing the issue, saying it was odd “to see the mayor and the city manager show up for a jaywalking ticket hearing.”

Mayor Teunis Westbroek said at the time that he was there as an interested citizen and the CAO was a witness called by the RCMP.

Westbroek said this week he thought the evidence was pretty clear, but he was “pleased the judge took it seriously, looked at the evidence carefully and made the right decision.”

“I hope that, now that the issue has been resolved, that we can move forward and work in a more collaborative way with our union representatives on behalf of the people that work hard in our community,” Westbroek said.

“We have very good staff.”

Both sides say their relationship has been slowly improving since the labour dispute.

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