For immediate release
London, ON – Ads are going back up on city buses in London, Ontario today that read, “Canada has no abortion laws.”
These ads come at the same time as the city is facing conflict over the distribution of pro-life flyers, with dueling pro-life and pro-abortion petitions online calling for the London City Council to consider bylaws. The two pro-life campaigns are unrelated, but both are opportunities for the city to display its commitment to freedom of expression, including pro-life expression.
The ad garnered controversy when it was first run by a local group in 2018. Despite the absence of a law against abortion being a rather basic legal fact, pro-abortion activist groups directed supporters to issue complaints against the ads. “It wasn’t what was said that caused the controversy, but the fact that a pro-life group said it,” said Tabitha Ewert, legal counsel for We Need a Law, the pro-life organization that designed the ads. “This is a fact that has been true since the 1988 Morgentaler Supreme Court decision, and has been said multiple times by legal and media sources – and even by the director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, the group that instigated the complaints!”
Due to this activist pressure, Advertising Standards Canada – a non-governmental, advisory body for Canadian advertisers – instructed that the message be taken down wherever it was posted. In their report following the complaints, Ad Standards referred to the ads as “inaccurate and misleading” despite being “literally true.”
London’s Transit Commission listened to Ad Standards and took down the bus ads mid-contract. At that time, the local group that placed the ads, with support from the Association for Reformed Political Action Canada, commenced legal action against the city for violating their freedom of expression by breaking their contract based on advice from a non-governmental body.
Both parties recently reached a legal settlement that includes the re-posting of the ads. “The re-running of these bus ads is a win-win situation for everyone,” said Ewert. “The pro-life movement is able to use their freedom to express their beliefs in London, and the city of London proves itself to be a place that does not shut down discussion on contentious issues, but respects the Charter guarantee of freedom of expression.”
Note: See joint statement from the London Transit Commission, ARPA Oxford, and the Association for Reformed Political Action here.
For further comment or interviews, please contact Tabitha Ewert at (604) 220-1258 // [email protected]