03 Jan 2020 Going to court over “Canada has no abortion laws” message
Canada has no abortion laws.
That statement is why we, alongside a local group called ARPA Oxford, are taking the City of London to court.
This story began in 2018 when we put up 33 billboards across the country that simply said, “Canada has no abortion laws.” We wanted to educate Canadians about the reality that, since the 1988 Morgentaler Supreme Court Decision, abortion is legal for any reason, at any gestational age. This education is much needed as one survey showed that 77% of Canadians are unaware of this. The reaction when we tell this to Canadians – whether they are pro-choice or pro-life – is shock and disbelief.
Many find it difficult to believe there really is no law – especially immigrants who are used to the way laws operate in their country of origin. Canada is the only democratic country with no abortion law. While hospitals or individual physicians may self-regulate, there is no legal consequence for performing an abortion – for ending the life of a pre-born child – right up until birth. It was well publicized that a woman obtained an abortion in Montreal at 35 weeks and no one faced legal repercussions.
With this in mind, we thought it was important to make sure Canadians are aware of the reality. Canada has no abortion laws. We need a law!
Almost immediately after our simple billboards went up, we saw pro-abortion activists get upset. They encouraged their supporters to complain about the ads to Ad Standards. Ad Standards is not a government body – it a self-regulatory body meant to field complaints and advise advertisers of whether an ad is inaccurate, discriminatory, etc. After they received complaints we began to interact with Ad Standards, defending the accuracy of our billboards, outlining the history of abortion law in Canada, and explaining that we had confirmed the truth of the statement with the College of Physician & Surgeons of Ontario.
Despite our best efforts, Ad Standards decided that “Canada has no abortion laws” was inaccurate. In their final explanation to us, they admitted that the Morgentaler decision had left Canada with no formal abortion legislation. But, they informed us, “that fact obscures the reality.” At the end of the day they explained that they weren’t concerned with literal truth, but some vague “general impression.” And the “general impression” of our billboards, they felt, was inaccurate.
By the time Ad Standards ruled on our billboard, we had completed our contract, meaning we didn’t face any loss due to this baffling, illogical decision.
However, at the same time, a grassroots group called ARPA Oxford entered into a contract to put the same advertisement up on buses in the City of London. Those ads were taken down partway into the contract at the behest of Ad Standards.
We are going to court to challenge that decision to terminate the contract, which relied solely on Ad Standards’ recommendation to remove these bus ads.
The City of London has the obligation to respect ARPA Oxford’s Charter guaranteed freedom of expression unless they have a justification for not doing so. The Ad Standards decision – a baffling, illogical decision from an irrelevant body with no authority whatsoever – does not amount to justification.
Our hope is that if we win this case it will become easier for the pro-life movement to advertise without interference from Ad Standards. Our hope is to be able to share the truth: the truth that Canada has no abortion laws. The truth about the 100,000 pre-born children who lose their lives each year because they have no legal protection. The truth that a country that takes human rights seriously needs to recognize human rights for all human beings.
We ask that you keep this case in your prayers. If you would like to assist, we encourage you to donate to the legal fund of the local ARPA Oxford group who is taking on much of the financial burden of this case. You can donate online at arpaoxford.ca (look for the red button in the top right corner of the website) or mail cheques addressed to ARPA Oxford to 333182 Plank Line, Mt. Elgin, ON, N0J1P0.
We also ask that you continue to use your voice wherever you are to speak the truth. Whether we win or lose this case, we need to make sure we are spreading our message in whatever place we are in. In whatever way you can, we urge you to use your voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.