Canadian Court rules in favor of Pro-life ads

By We Need a Law

Ottawa, ON – The Ontario Divisional Court ruled Wednesday that the city of Guelph’s decision to remove pro-life bus ads was unreasonable in light of the Charter. “We’re happy to see the Court confirm that we have the freedom to express the pro-life viewpoint,” said Tabitha Ewert, the lawyer who represented the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada as an intervener in this case. “The city had failed to recognize the Charter guarantee of freedom to expression by exclusively relying on a private body’s opinion on the ads. But the city can’t opt out of their constitutional responsibilities and we’re thankful the court affirmed that with their ruling.”

The city of Guelph had exclusively relied on the advice of Advertising Standards Canada – a private, industry group that offers its opinions on the accuracy and appropriateness of ads. “We argued that a private organization like Ad Standards isn’t in the position to consider the Charter rights at play. It’s not their role, nor do they have the expertise necessary to do so,” Ewert said.

The Court affirmed the arguments of the pro-life group, Guelph and Area Right to Life, as well as that of the intervener, saying, “the City improperly relied on Ad Standards’s rulings without giving any considerations to its right to freedom of expression.” Ewert commented on the court’s reasoning: “The Court strongly affirms that the responsibility of respecting freedom of expression falls squarely on the city. They have a responsibility to uphold the Charter, and they can’t opt out of that duty by pointing to Ad Standards’ opinions.”

The Court ruled that the city of Guelph’s decision was unreasonable and remitted it back to do a proper Charter balancing of the interests at stake.