For immediate release
London, ON – Ads that read, “Canada has no abortion laws” run on buses in London, Ontario until mid-December.
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 despite referring to them as “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. Advertising Standards’ decisions have been arbitrary and contradictory, and they have no accountability or external appeal mechanism making them an unreliable voice. “Canadian courts have consistently held that as a private body, Advertising Standard’s self-created Code cannot replace municipal government’s responsibility to consider their Charter obligations and evaluate the advertisement for themselves,” Ewert explained.
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 // firstname.lastname@example.org