Alberta judge upholds city's right to reject graphic anti-abortion ad on buses
Pro-life supporters hold anti-abortion signs as they take part in the March For Life rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, May 10, 2012. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, January 3, 2017 7:30PM EST
GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. - An abortion rights group is hailing a court ruling that says a city in northwest Alberta has the legal right to refuse to run a graphic anti-abortion ad on its transit buses.
The ad proposed by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) included pictures of fetuses and the words "Abortion kills children. End the killing."
Justice C. S. Anderson of Court of Queen's Bench ruled against CCBR's application to quash the decision by the City of Grande Prairie.
Anderson said the city's decision was reasonable because the ad would have likely caused psychological harm to women who have had an abortion or are considering one.
The judge also wrote that the ad would have caused fear and confusion among children.
"They may not be familiar with the word abortion, but they can read and understand that "something" kills children," Anderson said in a written ruling issued on Dec. 22.
"Expression of this kind may lead to emotional responses from the various people who make use of public transit and other users of the road, creating a hostile and uncomfortable environment."
CCBR argued that the city's decision infringed on its right to freedom of expression under the charter.
Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada said the ruling should prompt other communities to reject such ads.
Last year CCBR took the City of Peterborough, Ont., to court over the same ad after the city refused it on the basis that it does not accept controversial advertisements that could affect ridership on its buses.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice said the decision interfered with CCBR's freedom of expression but noted in a ruling released in March that the city has agreed to run the ad.
Arthur urged the City of Peterborough to take whatever legal means possible to ensure the ad does not appear.
"Further, we ask that the city issue a public statement within the next month to inform residents about the issue, and assure them that the ad has been rejected."
Alan Barber, associate city solicitor for Peterborough, said the Grande Prairie ruling has no immediate effect on the city.
He said Peterborough expects to run the ad sometime before the end of March.
Barber said a key difference in the cases is that Peterborough did not have a policy outlining standards that advertisers needed to meet when the CCBR ad was first submitted.
He also said the time period for the city to appeal the Ontario court ruling has expired.
CCBR officials were not immediately available for comment on the Grande Prairie ruling.