Does the State Have the Right to Tell Us What is "Accurate"?

Guelph Right to Life (GRTL) has placed ads on City buses for 20 years. Recently, the City told GRTL that their ads were inaccurate because the ads promoted the idea that the unborn child should have human rights and asked the question, "What about her choice?"

The City removed GRTL's ads because it said that these ideas were inaccurate and demeaning because an unborn child is not human and it does not make choices. Guelph Right to Life filed court Applications on the City’s decisions to refuse three of their ads, as follows: 1. “Life should be the most fundamental human right” ’with a blurry picture of a healthy baby in utero; 2. "Human rights should not depend upon where you are” with a picture of a pregnant woman on one side of the frame and the same woman holding a baby on the other;” and 3. “What about her choice?” with a picture of a healthy baby in utero. At the same time, GRTL had posted two euthanasia ads, which the City did not reject. The City made its decisions solely on the basis of Advertising Standards Canada ("ASC"- a private advertising regulator) Opinions which were, primarily, as follows: 1. It is inaccurate to say that a fetus could have human rights when it is not human; 2. ASC relied on a prior opinion to say that the ad is inaccurate because women don't typically have abortions in the later stage of pregnancy; 3. It is inaccurate to describe a fetus as “her” because it is not human, and to suggest that it has the capacity of choice is misleading. It also disparages women to say that the fetus’ choice is taken away by a woman in having an abortion.

Can the state tell its citizens that it cannot question, cannot promote ideas because that very questioning is inaccurate and demeaning? It is a dangerous thing to permit the state to determine what is true and what is false. In June, we will stand against the state brandishing its power to tell Canadians what is true and what is false.

Surely a government in a functioning democracy should not decide what is and is not accurate for its citizens. This is why Charter protection for freedom of expression is so crucial, so every individual is free to share his or her opinion, whether or not the government thinks that opinion is “correct."

This case came before the Court June 15, 2021. We now await a decision.