A Quebec Superior Court judge has struck down a ban on police wearing irregular clothing like puffy pants and cowboy hats to express labour grievances, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.
The court ruled wearing irregular clothing is a constitutionally protected act of free expression.
“Freedom of expression is the foundation of any democratic society,” wrote Justice Florence Lucas. “It protects both those who speak and those who listen. It reinforces three underlying values that justify the constitutional protection: personal growth, democratic debate and the search for truth.”
“It gives everyone the opportunity to express themselves on all subjects that concern life in society,” added Justice Lucas.
In the ruling, the Court pointed out that police in Quebec are forbidden from striking. Instead, they negotiate and, if need be, go to binding arbitration.
The ruling said that for decades, police have resorted to altering their uniforms to express labour grievances, donning things like jeans, baseball caps, and cowboy hats.
In 2015, Montreal police protesting a pension bill wore colorful baggy clown pants during a funeral for former premier Jacques Parizeau.
Justice Lucas noted that provoked an outcry, and prompted the Quebec government to pass amendments to the Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety that forbid police from altering their uniforms, under threat of $3,000 fines.
Police unions challenged the ban in court.
“The prohibitions in dispute are not justified in the context of a free and democratic society,” wrote the Court, which also ruled it infringed on police union members’ right to association.
The Court dismissed a request from the provincial government to leave the provisions in place for a year.
The ruling means the right to wear protest pants, hats, and buttons is restored.