Fight over 'People's Party' naming rights heads to Federal Court

Abbotsford business man wants political party name stripped from Maxime Bernier

The Federal Court of Canada will hear a case on Friday that could see rights to the “People’s Party of Canada” name taken away from former Conservative cabinet minister Maxime Bernier. 

The Quebec MP is the registered owner of the party but Satinder Dhillon of Abbotsford claims the name belongs to him. 

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Dhillon, a businessman, claims to have first come up with the name in 2015. A news story appears to back up his claim.

“The PPC (People’s Party of Canada) is not about politics, it is much more than that,” Dhillon told the Times of Canada in a story published in July, 2015. “It is a movement to inform the citizens about what is really going on in this country.”

But Dhillon told the NOW in February, he did not have enough time to register his federal party for that year’s election. When Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were swept into power that fall, he said he gave them a chance to follow through on some of their bold promises. 

A couple years of broken Liberal promises reignited Dhillon’s desire to start his own party, he said.

“The job just didn't get done, so we've been gearing up to do this for some time now,” he said.

Dhillon’s political vision is starkly different from Bernier’s. While the former Conservative minister identifies as a libertarian, to the right of his former party, Dhillon says his party will focus on economic injustice – an issue he says has been largely ignored by Canada’s major parties. 

Dhillon claims he was the first to file the name with Elections Canada in late September 2018 – weeks before Bernier – but Bernier beat him in the next step in the registration process by submitting paperwork, including signatures from 250 supporters.

Bernier was at an unfair advantage because he and his supporters live much closer to the Elections Canada office in Quebec, Dhillon said. And, he said, this was all going on during a postal workers’ strike – providing an added hindrance to the B.C.-based party.

“In our view, Elections Canada erred by not taking into account delays caused by the Canada Post strike and Mr. Dhillon’s earlier initial filing and should have awarded the party name to Mr. Dhillon,” Dhillon’s lawyer, Dean Davison, said in a statement.  

A spokesperson for Bernier’s PPC responded to the NOW in February with an emailed statement. 

“We are confident that our party was registered in accordance with the rules and that these lawsuits have no legal basis,” Martin Masse wrote.  

Elections Canada spokesperson Natasha Gauthier confirmed that Bernier was the first to attain eligibility to have the People’s Party of Canada registered as a federal party. The party was officially registered once Bernier successfully registered candidates in three Feb. 25 byelections, she said. 

Dhillon had hoped to run a candidate, Jasjeet Dadwal, in the Feb. 25 Burnaby South byelection, which was won by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, but, he said, the party-name issue prevented him from doing so. 

Bernier’s PPC ran a candidate in the byelection, Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, who came in fourth. 

Dhillon said he hopes the federal court will rule in his favour in time for the May 6 byelection in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

According to a press release from a public relations firm representing Dhillon, the case will be heard in a one-day hearing in Montreal.

“Whether we win or lose this court hearing, our party will be running candidates in the October federal election that will truly represent the people of Canada. Our party is based on our core values of economic fairness, free speech, anti-corruption, equal rights, and justice,” Dhillon said in a statement Wenesday. “We will stand against politics as usual, racism, and discrimination in all its forms.”

Dhillon’s lawyer, Dean Davison, said “the other party’s continued use of the name that rightfully belongs to my client is causing ongoing harm that needs to be remedied.”

“We look forward to arguing a strong case asking the courts for an injunction against Mr. Bernier’s party using the name People’s Party of Canada based on the facts,” Davison said.

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