Two Lethbridge residents started two separate online petitions defending Lethbridge Pro-Life’s right to free speech.

Court date set after Lethbridge pulled five ads promoting pro-life message

By  Andrew Ehrkamp, Canadian Catholic News
  • February 8, 2019

EDMONTON – The lawyer representing Lethbridge Pro-Life says the right to free speech is at stake in a judicial review which will come before the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench this fall after the City of Lethbridge rejected five pro-life ads on Lethbridge Transit. 

“I do see that, increasingly, government thinks it can take sides on an issue and decide to support one side and not the other, when the law requires that government stays neutral and protects the individual’s right to free speech, no matter if it’s controversial,” said Carol Crosson, a constitutional lawyer representing Lethbridge Pro-Life, which launched its claim for a review on Jan. 14.

“If it can happen on this message, it could happen on any message.”

The judicial review set for Oct. 10 in the southern Alberta city of 93,000 is the culmination of a three-year saga.

In the fall of 2016, Lethbridge Pro-Life applied to post an ad, featuring a photo of a healthy baby in utero and the words “Preborn babies feel pain. Say no to abortion,” on city transit property. 

The City approved the ad in January 2018 and posted it in on transit buses, benches and shelters a month later. The City communicated no further concerns about the ad, Crosson said.

In April 2018, the City of Lethbridge pulled the ads after receiving more than 100 responses to the ad, most of which were negative. Complaints were also lodged with the Advertising Standards Canada (ASC). In upholding the complaint, the ASC’s summary report said the ad was “inaccurate and misleading.” 

“The preponderance of scientific evidence appears to refute the statement that all foetuses (sic) feel pain at all stages of development,” the council said, adding the advertisement “demeaned and disparaged women who have had or are considering having an abortion by implying that women who decide to terminate their pregnancy intentionally inflict pain on their unborn foetuses.”

Crosson called it a “typical response” from ASC to pro-life ads, with little relevance to Lethbridge Pro-Life’s litigation against the City of Lethbridge.

Also in April, two Lethbridge residents started two separate petitions defending Lethbridge Pro-Life’s right to free speech. Crosson said at last count the two petitions had more than 3,000 signatures between them.

In fall of 2018, Lethbridge Pro-Life submitted five different ads to the city for consideration which had the tag line “Say no to abortion” and the LPL logo. “These are some of the most innocuous pro-life ads I’ve ever seen,” Crosson said. All were refused. 

Crosson said LPL is alleging bias in its application for a judicial review. “If the City will listen to 100 responses, primarily negative, but won’t listen to 3,000 of its residents who say ‘Please support and protect this group’s right to free speech’ — we believe that indicates bias.”

A spokesperson for the City of Lethbridge declined to comment. 

(Grandin Media)

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