AuthorSteingard, Jessica

Subway Pictogram: Warning sign or law?

Kosoian v Societe de transport de Montreal, 2019 SCC 59

On May 13, 2009, Ms. Kosoian rode a down escalator in one of Montreal's subway stations. She didn't hold the handrail. A police officer saw this and ordered her to hold the handrail or he would issue her a ticket. She refused. Another police officer arrived. The police officers led Ms. Kosoian to a holding room, searched her bag without her consent and handcuffed her. Ms. Kosoian was given a $100 ticket for refusing to obey the pictogram and a $320 ticket for hindering an inspector in the performance of inspection duties.

The Municipal Court dropped the ticket. Ms. Kosoian started a civil claim against the police officer, the transit authority and the City of Montreal for "unlawful and unreasonable arrest on the basis of a pictogram that did not create an offence" but simply gave a warning. The trial judge dismissed Ms. Kosoian's claim and applauded the actions of the police officers. The majority of the Court of Appeal also dismissed Ms. Kosoian's claim. The Supreme Court of Canada overturned both lower courts.

The Supreme Court of Canada held that a reasonable police officer would not have concluded that failing to obey the pictogram was an offence under a by-law. A reasonable officer would have concluded the pictogram was a safety warning. Accordingly, the Court found the police officer civilly liable for his actions.

The Court also held that the transit authority and the City of Montreal were liable. The transit authority was directly liable because it trained police officers that disobeying the pictograms were offences. It was also liable as mandator for the police officer's fault. The City of Montreal was liable as the police officer's principal.

Over ten and a half years after the incident, the Court awarded Ms. Kosoian $20,000 in damages--50% payable by the transit authority and 50% by the police officer.

Roads on Reserve: Private or public?

R v Adams. 2019 ABPC 296

In February of 2019, Mr. Adams was convicted of driving while prohibited in Edmonton. He was prohibited from driving on a "street, road, highway, or any public place in Canada" that the public has a "right of access" or is ordinarily "entitled or permitted to use" (per s. 2 of Canada's Criminal Code and s. 1 of Alberta's Traffic Safety Act).

The next month, Mr. Adams was driving on Paul First Nation in central Alberta--from his mother's house to his uncle's house to pick up...

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