Supreme Court of Canada Rules That Transit Authorities Must Allow Political Advertising on Public Transit

Posted on

The BCCLA applauds the Supreme Court of Canada decision released today in B.C. Transit v. Canadian Federation of Students. The case was a constitutional challenge to the advertising policies of Translink and BC Transit which allowed for commercial advertising but not political advertising on government-controlled public transit vehicles. The BCCLA appeared as an intervener in the case at the Supreme Court of Canada, the BC Supreme Court and BC Court of Appeal.

The Court held that BC Transit and Translink, corporations that operate public transportation systems in British Columbia, are substantially controlled by the government and therefore their policies must conform to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court also held that the transit authorities’ policies infringed freedom of expression, and reaffirmed that the content of speech cannot be a basis for determining whether or not speech is permissible in a public place.

Chris Sanderson, lawyer for the BCCLA: “This decision is significant in at least two respects. First, it clearly establishes that the government cannot shirk its Charter obligations by conferring powers on another entity. Second, the judgement contains a ringing endorsement of a long held BCCLA position that it is not the business of government to approve or disapprove of what Canadians say unless the government can demonstrate that to do so is justifiable in a free and democratic society, something the government was unable to show in this case.”

Grace Pastine, litigation director for the BCCLA: “This case is a win for Canadians because the Court has upheld a basic democratic right. This Court has squarely rejected the notion that Canadians need to be shielded from political debate in public spaces. It also sends a strong message to all government-related bodies that control speech in public spaces that that they must not violate Charter rights, including the freedom of expression.”

Chris Sanderson, Q.C. of Lawson Lundell and Chelsea Wilson represented the BCCLA.

Grace Pastine, Litigation Director, 604-630-9751 (office), 778-241-7183 (cell), [email protected]