BCCLA at B.C. Court of Appeal to Resist Limits on Expression in Aquarium Case

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VANCOUVER – Monday, March 20, 2017, the BC Court of Appeal will hear oral arguments in Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre v Charbonneau, a case challenging the a court order restricting the distribution of a documentary film critical of the Aquarium. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is intervening to urge the Court to carefully consider the personal and social values protected by free expression when making an order that restrains expressive activity.

The Appellant, Mr. Gary Charbonneau, created a documentary film entitled “Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered” that was critical of the Vancouver Aquarium’s practice of keeping and breeding marine animals in captivity.  The Aquarium filed a lawsuit against Mr. Charbonneau claiming that the documentary contained approximately five minutes of footage that breaches copyright or contract law. On April 4, 2016, the BC Supreme Court granted the Aquarium a pre-trial injunction order restricting Mr. Charbonneau from sharing his documentary unless he removes the footage that allegedly infringes copyright or contract law, including segments recorded by Mr. Charbonneau and other visitors to the Aquarium. Mr. Charbonneau is now asking the BC Court of Appeal to reconsider the injunction against him.

The BCCLA is intervening in the case to urge the Court to clarify the law and ensure that harms to free speech are always properly weighed before an injunctive order is made in BC. The BCCLA is deeply concerned about the loss of democratic value when a court order limits social and political commentary on matters of public interest. The BCCLA will argue that pre-trial injunctions affecting free speech ought to be treated similarly to publication bans, which require courts to heavily weigh the harms to speakers and listeners that result from the restriction of free expression.

The BCCLA is represented by Monique Pongracic-Speier of Ethos Law Group.

Read the BCCLA’s submission to the Court here.

  • What:  BC Court of Appeal will hear oral arguments in Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre v Charbonneau.
  • When:  Oral arguments before the Court begin Monday, February 20, 2017 at 10:00 am PT/ 7:00 am ET.
  • Where: BC Court of Appeal (Vancouver, BC)
  • Who:   Caily DiPuma, Acting Litigation Director