The protesters who ‘showed their dismay’ for Benoit and Bailey’s business practices in October, have applied to the town for a permit to stage another protest Jan. 29.
Prospective protesters asked to plan ahead
By Jeanne Whitehead
Canada’s Charter of Rights trumps municipal bylaws—so Digby town council’s Oct. 9 decision to classify public protests as ‘special events’ that require permits might not hold up to a challenge.
And that’s just fine, according to Mayor Ben Cleveland. He says when the previous town council decided individuals planning to hold a protest in Digby should apply for a permit under bylaw 2006-02, council wasn’t attempting to prevent spontaneous protests. They were just hoping to be forewarned.
Although the ‘special events’ permit has a $500 fee attached to it, Cleveland said that is typically waived anyway.
Frank Mackintosh, who was the mayor of Digby at the time, called an emergency meeting of town council Oct. 9 after Dana Bailey asked him to stop a protest that was going to take place in town Oct. 11.
A group of individuals were coming to Digby to protest the business practices of Bailey and his partner, Gail Benoit, local owners of a business called Puppies ‘R’ Us.
The two puppy brokers, already facing a 2007 animal cruelty charge, gained added notoriety in the summer of 2008 when puppies that they sold to individuals in the Maritime provinces died hours after the parking lot transactions were completed.
Esther Smith was one of the people whose puppies died. She was also one of the organizers of the Oct. 11 protest—which went ahead as planned.
The prospect of the Oct. 11 protest, however, triggered some research by the town’s lawyer, Andrew Montgomery.
He advised councilors that they could use bylaw 2006-02, which governs amusement performances and special events, to require organizers of future protests to apply for a permit. At the Oct. 9 meeting, councilors decided to do just that.
“We had a lot of discussion, at the time, around the fact that people have the right to ‘assemble’ and ‘express their views’,” said Cleveland.
“But it’s in the town’s best interest if we know about these things in advance, so Richard (Parry) is now telling people who ask that they should apply for a permit.”
“If there’s going to be a large number of people involved, and we need to close a street, it makes sense to know this ahead of time,” said Cleveland.
The people who staged the Oct. 11 protest are planning another one—to coincide with Benoit and Bailey’s next court date. Jan. 29, 2009. That’s when Judge Jean Louis Batiot will render a verdict on animal cruelty charges against the pair. The charges stem from the seizure of pups from their Roxville property a year ago.
Smith and her fellow protesters are doing everything ‘by the book.’ They have written to Digby town council advising, “We would like to hold a one-hour peaceful demonstration to show our dismay towards Benoit’s business practices.”
They have also asked Digby town council to waive the $500 permit fee because “We do not generate income of any sort.”