Publisac distributor appealing Superior Court ruling to uphold crackdown on unsolicited flyers

TC Transcontinental, the company that distributes flyers to households throughout Quebec, said Thursday it will appeal a Quebec Superior Court decision that allows the suburb of Mirabel to limit their distribution to those that opt to receive them.

Other Quebec municipalities, including Montreal, poised to follow Mirabel's lead

The weekly delivery of circulars, coupons and local newspapers is a boon to some, a nuisance to others. (Denis Gervais/Radio-Canada)

The company that distributes flyers to households throughout Quebec said Thursday it will appeal a Quebec Superior Court decision that allows the suburb of Mirabel, north of Montreal, to limit their distribution to those who opt to receive them.

The court ruled Wednesday the municipality has the right to limit the door-to-door distribution of advertisement flyers to households that  specifically request to receive the plastic bag stuffed with colourful coupons and promotional materials.

"We are disappointed with the court's decision," said Patrick Brayley, senior vice-president of TC Transcontinental, in a statement Thursday. 

"At a time when the population is facing unprecedented price increases, the social and economic relevance of Publisac is greater than ever."

Mirabel adopted its bylaw in 2019, limiting the distribution of all printed advertising to those who affix a sticker to their mailbox.

Brayley said the ruling will effectively end the distribution of the flyers in Mirabel, as few will choose to opt in to receive them. 

Until now, Quebec households that don't want the flyers have had to contact the company to opt out. More than 200,000 households across Quebec have done so, the company said.

TC Transcontinental had argued the suburb's bylaw violates freedom of expression guaranteed by the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights and freedoms. 

"In addition to giving consumers access to discounts, Publisac allows the distribution of local newspapers at an advantageous cost, helps businesses to attract customers to stores and face the giants of e-commerce, while also generating thousands of direct and indirect jobs," Brayley said.

Mirabel Mayor Patrick Charbonneau said in a news release that Wednesday's ruling is a "major turning point for Mirabel and for the other cities that will follow suit in reducing paper consumption." He said TC Transcontinental is not the only company that delivers flyers in his community.

Other municipalities, including Montreal, have announced they plan to follow Mirabel's lead.

Mayor Valérie Plante has said the city will make its move in 2023.

Earlier this month, Plante said some 800,000 flyers and other unsolicited advertisements are printed and distributed to Montreal households each week. That adds up to more than 41 million flyers annually that end up in recycling bins or the dump.

Montreal plans to require the advertisements be delivered in paper bags rather than plastic. The city is aiming for zero waste by 2030.

with files from Radio-Canada