Quebec court confirms suburban crackdown on unsolicited flyers

A Quebec Supreme Court has ruled that a suburb north of Montreal can stop the distribution of advertising leaflets to homeowners unless they specifically request that a plastic bag full of colorful coupons and promotional materials be dropped at their doorstep.

Wednesday’s ruling settles the dispute between Mirabel, Que., and TC Transcontinental, the company that distributes the bag of flyers known as Publisac.

The district passed an ordinance in 2019 restricting the distribution of all print advertisements to those who request it by putting a sticker on their letterbox. Other municipalities, including Montreal, have announced that they will soon follow Mirabel’s lead.

TC Transcontinental argued that the regulation violates the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Canadian and Quebec Charters of Rights and Freedoms.

TC Transcontinental wished to distribute its Publisac to all households except those who have expressly requested not to receive it, as was customary in the past. But the court’s 50-page ruling said otherwise.

Mayor Patrick Charbonneau said in a press release that the decision is “a major turning point for Mirabel and for the other cities that will follow in reducing paper consumption.”

Mirabel now encourages TC Transcontinental to stop violating the city ordinance.

For its part, the company argues that the imposition of an opt-in system would lead to the end of the distribution of the Publisac in Mirabel.

The ruling gives Montreal the push to move forward with its own plan to draft a similar settlement.

Mayor Valérie Plante has said the city will move in 2023. Every week, approximately 800,000 flyers and other unsolicited advertisements arrive at the doors of homes in Montreal, amounting to more than 41 million flyers a year ending up in recycling sites and landfills.

Montreal aims for zero waste by 2030. In the Plante administration’s plan to curb flyers, the city will also require that the ads be delivered in paper bags instead of plastic.

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