When is shouting a disturbance?

In Whatcott v. The Queen, the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench set aside the conviction of a man charged with causing a disturbance in or near a public place by shouting, contrary to section 175(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Code. The Accused was holding an abortion protest at a busy intersection. He was holding a sign and yelling and shouting at passers-by on the street and at the cars going by on the street. Some of the people were shouting back. The Court held that “the disturbance contemplated by s.175(1)(a) is something more than mere emotional upset. There must be an externally manifested disturbance of the public peace, in the sense of interference with the ordinary and customary use of the premises by the public.” The Court went on to hold “the purpose is not to control expression, in and of itself. The legislation is not aimed at the content of expression, but rather the physical result of the expression or activity, and then only in a public place.” It said “the interference with the ordinary and customary conduct in or near the public place may consist in something as small as being distracted from one’s work. But it must be present and it must be externally manifested. In accordance with the principle of legality, the disturbance must be one which may reasonably have been foreseen in the particular circumstances of time and place.” The Court found there was no such disturbance. It did not interfere with the use of the premises by the public, it did not create a traffic hazard and it did not prevent the movement of pedestrians or traffic.