In a major pro-life victory, a court has ruled that the city of Guelph, Ontario, was “unreasonable” in its decision to remove several pro-life advertisements from the backs of city buses.
The advertisements were removed by the city in 2019 and 2020 following a complaint from local citizen Fiona Douglas. Douglas argued that the ads were “triggering” for pro-abortion women and women who have had an abortion. The city’s Ad Standards council sided with Douglas and the ads were taken down.
Consequently, Guelph & Area Right to Life challenged the city’s decision to remove the ads for violating the right to freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court ruled in the pro-life group’s favor. In a statement, Guelph & Area Right to Life praised this decision and noted that it affirmed not only the rights of their organization but of all Canadian pro-life organizations.
“We are ecstatic! This is a big win for us locally and the Canadian Pro-Life movement. We thank [attorney] Carol Crosson for all the amazing work she did in this case, as well as the various intervenors who took an interest in our legal action and spoke in our defense. We look forward to sharing life-affirming messages in our city once again,” said Kristin Swaving, President of Guelph & Area Right to Life.
One of the ads in question depicted a pregnant woman on one side and a woman holding a newborn baby on the other. It stated, “Human rights should not depend on where you are. Say no to abortion.” Another ad showed an image of a fetal ultrasound with the caption: “Life should be the most fundamental human right. Say no to abortion.”
In her complaint, Douglas said the ads spread the “misleading” information that a preborn child is human. She argued that pro-life groups have a right to advertise, but not to spread false information. However, Douglas ignores the scientific consensus that human life begins at fertilization. While the beginning of legal personhood is hotly debated among some, it is scientifically and biologically inaccurate to claim that a preborn child is not human until birth.
Sadly, the censorship of pro-life advertisements is not limited to Canada. In a significant blow to free speech, a court in Slovenia ruled in favor of censoring pro-life advertising last month after a state-owned bus company removed pro-life ads from its buses in 2018. The ads featured messages like “We love Life, “You are not alone,” “Step out of Silence,” and “I mourn my child.”
A similar incident occurred in the United Kingdom in 2018, when ads for a Christian festival were removed from buses. Fortunately, in that case, the court ruled that the removal of the ads was discriminatory.
The fight against pro-life censorship in Guelph isn’t over yet. In the wake of the new ruling, the city issued a statement saying it is “considering next steps” and has not made “any determination about the specific advertising content which the Court has remitted for its reconsideration.”
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