Group loses bid to display pro-life ads on Lower Mainland buses

The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform had argued its right to freedom of expression.

A Calgary-based non-profit group has lost its bid to display graphic pro-life advertisements on buses throughout the Lower Mainland.

In a ruling posted Wednesday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Leask dismissed an application for judicial review brought by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, which had argued it had a right to freedom of expression under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

RELATED: Alberta judge upholds city’s right to reject graphic anti-abortion ad on buses

According to the ruling, the organization had wanted to display ads that showed three images: a fetus at seven weeks’ gestation; a fetus at 16 weeks’ gestation; and a red square. The first two carried the caption, “Going,” while the third had the caption, “Gone.” The ad also read “Abortion Kills Children” and showed the website address endthekilling.ca.

The centre, which also has headquarters in Ontario, argued that freedom of expression includes the right to communicate controversial and unpopular messages “which the majority may deem wrong or false,” the ruling said. The group also said bus riders “are expected to put up with some controversy in Canadian society.”

The South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, whose advertising is managed by Lamar Transit Advertising, rejected the ads in 2015 because it would not create a “safe and welcoming environment.”

Justice Leask found that the transportation authority did infringe on the centre’s right to freedom of expression, but that it was a reasonable infringement because the agency wanted to provide a safe environment for others.

He went on to say that certain groups, such as children, would be at risk of harm from the ads.

“I find that the advertisement could cause psychological harm to women,” he added. “While women are not as vulnerable to graphic imagery as children, clearly comparing women who have had abortions to “killers” is content that many members of the general public, especially women, would find disturbing.”

More to come.


 


laura.baziuk@bpdigital.ca

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