Granby moves to fine people insulting police on social media

Residents in Granby, Que., could soon face fines of up to $1,000 if they disparage police officers or municipal workers online.

City of Granby, Que., may introduce fines of up to $1K for insulting police, municipal workers online

If you often vent about municipal employees and police officers online, you may want to think twice before unleashing your next tirade. (Canadian Press)

Be careful what you write about police officers online — if you live in Granby, Que., you could get slapped with a hefty fine.

The municipality about an hour outside of Montreal is seeking the right to issue fines ranging from $100 to $1,000 to people caught insulting police officers or municipal employees on the internet.

According to Catherine Bouchard, the director of legal services for Granby, a bylaw already exists for face-to-face insults and has been used in recent years for online slurs.

Your freedom of speech does not give you the right to say anything about anybody.- Catherine Bouchard, City of Granby lawyer

"We've given statements of infractions to people who have insulted police officers on the net or through social media," Bouchard said.

"We already apply it that way, our bylaw. We just modified it to make sure that there was no ambiguity."

The proposed modifications to the bylaw would prohibit anyone from making defamatory statements or slurs against city employees online.

"Are we insulting a police officer in the discharge of his duties? That's the offence that we are rewriting, if I may, in a very clear manner that regards social media and internet," Bouchard said.

She said she wasn't aware of any constitutional challenges to the previous bylaw, which has existed for more than a decade. She said other Quebec municipalities have similar bylaws.

"If you put something out on the internet, I don't know what the expectation of privacy is," Bouchard said.

"Let's say I write something about you that's derogatory or that's insulting … do I have the freedom to write anything about you?

"Your freedom of speech does not give you the right to say anything about anybody you want in an insulting manner. I can't destroy your reputation and who you are because I have freedom of speech."

The new bylaw rules will be considered at a city council meeting on May 4.

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