Man fined $543 for “F–k Harper” sign is having his case bumped up to provincial court, where he will argue that removing the sign would violate freedom of expression.
An Edmonton man who was issued a $543 fine for putting a sign in his car window with an expletive aimed at former prime minister Stephen Harper says his case is being bumped up to provincial court.
Rob Wells made an appearance in traffic court on Thursday, where he served notice of his intent to file a constitutional argument against the stunting ticket.
He had been pulled over last August by an RCMP officer just south of Edmonton and was told to remove the sign but refused, saying it was a political statement and he had a right to have it in his window.
At the time, RCMP Sgt. Josee Valiquette wouldn’t comment on the sign and said police stopped Wells after receiving two complaints about erratic driving.
The case was put over to Nov. 27, when Wells will appear before a provincial court judge and a later court date will likely be set.
Wells devised the handmade, pink “F–k Harper” sign to voice his contempt for Harper’s Conservative government.
He said although some motorists gave him the thumbs up of approval, in Alberta he got more than a few birds flipped at him, including one woman who he said filed an official complaint with RCMP.
He said he considers her middle finger gesture just as offensive as his sign, but “it’s just that she is a good Harper supporter, and how dare you criticize her political hero? Well, he’s not one of my heroes.”
His charter argument will be that the RCMP put him under arbitrary detention by pulling him over and the officer had no cause to do so.
“The only reason he pulled me over was because it was offensive. My question is, offensive to who? The woman who complained and maybe him, but that’s not illegal. You can’t just pull someone over because you don’t like something.”
He said he also plans to argue that forcing him to remove the sign would be a violation of freedom of expression.
“If we can’t stand up against oppression and speak out against oppressive politicians … that’s not a free and democratic society, that’s a police state.”
It’s a road he’s been down before. Wells said he was pulled over by Edmonton police 15 years ago, after he put a “F–k Ralph” bumper sticker on his car to protest former Alberta premier Ralph Klein’s push for private health care.
He said he wasn’t charged because police determined he wasn’t doing anything illegal.
“I could have put lots of other signs out there, like ‘Vote Against Harper’ or whatever,” said Wells, who describes himself as a retired human rights activist. “But it wouldn’t have gotten any attention. The reason I did it is, if I can be this in your face, maybe someone else can be motivated to just get involved.”
Wells took down the sign after the “happy day” of the election, when Justin Trudeau’s Liberals defeated the Conservatives.
He hasn’t decided yet whether to represent himself at court or secure legal representation, adding he has had offers from lawyers willing to take on his case for free.
“I think the RCMP are digging their heels in on this one,” he said.