Is it illegal to remove political signs in Canada? Removing political signs from the road or yard of others could land you in hot water, literally! Depending on your state and local laws, you may be legally obliged to leave all political signs alone until after the election. If you don’t wish to comply with this rule, you could be held accountable and charged with malicious mischief or trespassing.
Is It Illegal to Remove Political Signs in Canada
The Criminal Code of Canada states that removing political campaign posters is illegal. In an email to The Huffington Post Canada, a spokesperson for Elections Canada clarified that it’s unlawful to remove signs posted during a designated election period or within 48 hours before voting day.
It’s also unlawful to possess any device or tool to remove signs. The offense carries a maximum $5,000 fine and/or six months in prison for first-time offenders, but repeat offenders may face up to one year and/or a $10,000 fine. Alternatively, charges can also be laid under local bylaws if you have permission from landowners whose property signs are posted.
When does removal become theft?
Removing political signs from someone else’s property isn’t always a criminal offense, but if your actions meet these criteria, it probably is.
- The sign belongs to someone else (not you);
- You move or remove it;
- Without permission;
- With criminal intent—intending to commit mischief or mischief.
There are circumstances under which removing political signs may not meet all four criteria, but they don’t apply in most cases where individuals have been charged with removing political signs.
Suppose there is any question about what might constitute theft when removing political signs. In that case, we recommend that private citizens simply leave them alone unless they are certain that removal would not involve criminal conduct.
Who decides who owns a sign?
To understand whether or not a sign can be removed, it’s important to first understand who owns that sign. Sign ownership depends on many factors, including which municipality the property is located in and whether or not there was prior permission given to install that particular type of signage.
A properly placed for sale sign belongs to whoever owns that house. Political signs are a little more complex. In some cases, political signs may belong to candidates themselves, whereas others belong to private citizens for whom political parties have paid for space on their properties.
Removing election campaign signs from private property
The removal of election campaign signs from private property without consent is illegal under section 429(1) of Canada’s Criminal Code, which makes it an offense to deface or destroy any document belonging to another person with the intent to damage or interfere with the use or benefit of that other person.
Most provinces also have criminal code provisions that prohibit property damage – in some provinces, and these provisions apply only to elections. This means that if an election poster is placed on your lawn and damaged by someone, they may have committed a criminal offense by damaging your property.
Another consideration is that a signed election petition will also be considered private property and enjoy protection under Canada’s Criminal Code.
Removing election campaign signs from public property
Many Canadian municipalities have bylaws to control political advertising on public property. In some cases, these bylaws forbid people from removing campaign signs for candidates running for local or provincial office without express permission from each candidate involved.
After all, who wouldn’t want their campaign signs to stay up as long as possible? But if you remove a sign that was put up with someone else’s permission or without any permission, it might be theft—and it could land you in hot water.
Know when not to get involved
Although it may be tempting to take a stand for your beliefs, in many cases removing political signs is against the law. Removing or defacing political signs without consent is a violation of municipal bylaws, which can mean fines of thousands of dollars.
In some cases, particularly in rural areas, action can also be taken under trespassing laws as tempting as removing another person’s signage when they are nowhere in sight; leaving them up will cause less trouble and expense than taking them down illegally.
Most importantly, no matter your opinion on an issue, don’t risk damaging other people’s property to support your position – just let it go and focus on better ways to get people involved in issues that are important to you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can be written on a sign?
While some have voiced concerns that the signposts are untrue, the Canada Elections Act does not regulate campaign sign content.
According to Elections Canada, all partisan and electoral advertising, including signs, must include a tagline stating who authorized the message. That is generally the statement that says something such as “authorized by the candidate’s official agent.”
You can file a complaint about the content of a sign by writing to the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections.
What should I do about an unsightly sign on my property?
Someone emailed CBC K-W saying they discovered a sign from their front lawn shortly after the election began, but they had not requested the sign.
If you don’t want it, Elections Canada suggests you can have it taken down if it’s on your personal, residential property.
“You might very well wish to consult the applicant or enrolled party whose sign it is to inform them that you did not demand the sign and to request that it be removed,” according to the Elections Canada website.
In conclusion, removing an undesired electoral sign through your residential real estate is not illegal.
Someone stole or destroyed my sign. What happens next?
According to Elections Canada, you can notify the police because this is regarded as the destruction of privately owned land and is a criminal offense.
You can also file a complaint with the Officer of the Commissioner of Canadian Elections, but it isn’t much you can do other than request a substitute from the candidate you support.
I live in a flat or condominium. Is it legal for me to put up a sign?
Yes, according to Elections Canada.
“During an election period, landowners do not even have the right to stop tenants from placing election signage on the site they lease in a housing complex,” the website states. “Condominium corporations have no power to block condo owners from putting up signs.”
What is the maximum size of a sign?
For signs put on public property, the state’s sign bylaw specifies a maximum height of 0.8 meters and a maximum width of 1.2 meters.
Some signs may be mounted on stakes, elevating them above the ground. In such instances, the sign cannot be higher than 0.9 meters.
There are no rules prohibiting candidates from purchasing larger billboards on private property.
How long do applicants have after the election to remove their campaign signs?
According to the regional bylaw, applicants have 72 hours after casting a vote to eliminate their signs.
Candidates in Wilmot Township have seven days to change campaign signs.
Monday, October 21, is Election Day.
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In several cities and towns, people are given 48 hours to remove a political lawn sign after an election. If people fail to take down their signs within two days of an election ends, they can face fines of up to $500. Does that mean I can be fined for putting my political sign up in August?
No. Most municipalities have specific bylaws or rules stating that political signs cannot go up before a certain date. For example, some municipalities might say that no political signs can go up until 30 days before an election; however, many have rules regarding how long campaign posters must stay in place after voting has taken place.