This afternoon we received news that the Ontario Superior Court has sided with us in ruling that Ontario’s law censoring abortion statistics infringes on freedom of expression as outlined in Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We know that censorship is the new weapon of choice for those intent on preventing Canadians from knowing the truth about abortion. This decision is a huge victory for us and ensures that we can more effectively work to advance protections for pre-born children!
ARPA Canada, the parent organization of We Need a Law has put a lot of resources into this case. In fact, it was one of the reasons we went on the STOP CENSORSHIP tour earlier this year.
A quick recap:
In January 2012, the Government of Ontario amended the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) by adding Section 65 (5.7) which reads: “This Act does not apply to records relating to the provision of abortion services.” In 2015, together with Pat Maloney, a pro-life blogger from Ottawa, the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada filed a notice of application asking the Ontario Superior Court to strike down this censorship provision.
The case was heard on February 1, 2017 where the applicants asked Mr. Justice Marc Labrosse to rule that Section 65(5.7) of the FIPPA was unconstitutional because it censored the residents of Ontario, indeed all Canadians, from having access to meaningful abortion related information.
From ARPA’s press release earlier today:
ARPA is very pleased that Justice Labrosse came to this conclusion. “This is a huge victory for freedom of expression,” said André Schutten, ARPA Canada’s director of law and policy. “It’s historic. There has never been a decision granting access to information from the executive branch based on the freedom of expression provision of the Charter. All disclosure orders to date have been made on a statutory rather than constitutional basis. Abortion is a matter of public importance and the courts have long recognized this. Abortion is also a recognized political issue, and political expression is at the core of protected speech under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
“This decision strengthens democracy,” continued Schutten. “The question at the heart of this case was whether governments can avoid accountability on a particular matter simply by excluding information related to that matter from the access to information law. We are very pleased that the court has struck this censorship provision down.”
The hard work of ARPA lawyers John Sikkema, André Schutten as well as outside counsel Albertos Polizogopoulos is to be commended! We also express deep appreciation for the perseverance and dedication of Ms. Maloney. Thanks Pat!
We are not sure how the Government of Ontario will respond to this decision. The court has given them a year to allow for the adoption of remedial legislation. Suffice to say, this case was about transparency and democracy. In our view, the actions of a democratic government and the money it spends should be open to scrutiny by the taxpayer and voter.
But more importantly, this case is about justice. It is a scientific fact that each abortion takes the life of a human being. Even if many wish to condone or even celebrate this, nobody can deny that a human life has been taken. The way to deal with this is not to censor all abortion-related information. Rather it is to allow the truth to be known, and then to engage in meaningful public discourse about how to address the over 100,000 abortions that occur in Canada every year. There must be documentation, recognition and, hopefully one day, public acknowledgement of the injustice of abortion and regulations put in place to limit it.
We hope you will join us in remaining diligent in ensuring that the state cannot simply hide information they feel is not in their political interest to discuss.