National Abortion Rights Group Intervenes in Legal Case on Anti-choice Advertising
For immediate release
(NATIONAL) – On Wednesday, the Ontario Divisional Court granted intervenor status to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada in a legal case between Guelph and Area Right to Life, and the City of Guelph.
The local anti-abortion group sued the city in late 2020 over the removal of three of the group’s anti-choice bus ads during 2019 and early 2020. The city did so because the ads contravened the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, which is administered by Ad Standards, a national, independent industry watchdog. Ad Standards decided that the three anti-abortion ads in question were inaccurate and misleading, and that two of them were also demeaning and/or disparaging to women.
Being an intervenor means that the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) has a special interest in the case and can present a unique perspective that will assist the court in making a decision.
“Our arguments will centre on the harms caused by these misleading and demeaning anti-choice ads, and the well-established value and utility of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards in appropriately regulating such harmful advertisements,” said Joyce Arthur, Executive Director of ARCC. “Municipalities across Canada rely on this Code to ensure that advertising content meets legal and community standards.” Research by ARCC has found that at least 75 municipalities cite the Code in policies or bylaws related to advertising or signage, including Guelph, and that six court decisions have endorsed use of the Code by cities.
“The Advertising Code helps cities fulfil local community objectives such as ensuring diversity, inclusivity, and a safe and welcoming environment for all,” said Zain Abdulla, President of the Board of Directors for ARCC. “Unfortunately, several anti-abortion groups, including Guelph and Area Right to Life, want to undermine the Code’s authority and compel cities to run ads that are inaccurate, demeaning, or even discriminatory – regardless of harms to the community. They claim their freedom of expression takes precedence.”
ARCC will argue that anti-choice ads such as those by Guelph and Area Right to Life not only threaten community values of diversity and inclusion, but also the Charter rights of women and gender diverse people capable of pregnancy. Therefore, cities should be able to consider these impacts and refuse to post inaccurate, misleading, and/or degrading ads that directly undermine these fundamental equality protections.