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                                           PT et al v. Alberta

The Justice Centre launched a court application on behalf of a coalition of parents and independent schools, challenging the constitutionality of School Act provisions added by Bill 24, ‘An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances’.

This court application asked the court to strike down provisions of Bill 24 on the basis that they violate the rights of parents and schools protected by section 2(a), 2(b), 2(d) and 7 rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”) and the Alberta Bill of Rights.  The court application also sought an injunction staying the operation of the challenged provisions until the Court rules on their constitutionality.

Primary among the provisions challenged was the requirement that prohibits principals and teachers from notifying parents about student organizations or “activities”, other than the establishment of the organization or the holding of the activity.

The applicants included 26 faith-based schools in Alberta, including Jewish, Christian, and Sikh schools. Bill 24 threatened faith-based schools by attacking the freedom of these schools to create safe and welcoming learning environments while also respecting their unique religious characters, and by preventing schools from being open and transparent with parents.

The applicants also included more than ten individual parents who were concerned about Bill 24’s provisions that prevent parental knowledge about their children in GSA-related activities. Creating no-go zones for parental awareness jeopardizes the safety of Alberta’s children, especially the most vulnerable, and undermines parents’ ability to support and protect their own children.

Bill 24 was passed by the Alberta Legislature in November of 2017.  Bill 24 amended the School Act to make it illegal for the school principal to notify parents about their child’s involvement in student organizations, including Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), or “activities” established under section 16.1 of the School Act.

Prior to the passage of Bill 24, principals and teachers had discretion to withhold information from parents on a case-by-case basis.  In rare and unusual cases where there was a risk that providing parents with information would result in a risk of abuse or other harm to a student, schools had the legal authority to withhold information from parents.  Bill 24 removed this discretion from teachers and principals, and replaced it with a blanket prohibition that prevented informing all parents, without exception, about their children’s involvement in GSAs and GSA-related activities.

Bill 24 further required principals to set up a GSA or facilitate a GSA-related activity “immediately” (at the request of one student) without consulting the school board or parents, and without considering whether the GSA and GSA-related activities are compatible with the school’s nature, character and values.  Parents with concerns about the sexual or ideological content of what was presented in GSA meetings or at GSA-related activities could no longer protect their children from this content, due to the secrecy provisions of Bill 24.

Bill 24 made no distinction between a five-year-old in Kindergarten who is experiencing gender identity confusion, and a seventeen-year-old in Grade 12 who does not wish to discuss sexuality with his parents.  In both cases, teachers were legally barred from providing any information to parents about GSAs or GSA-related activities.  The Alberta government’s GSA Network website welcomes queries from children, and asked whether they were in elementary school or high school.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that government may not interfere with parental rights to make decisions for their children, unless the government first proves that the parents’ decisions are harmful to the child, or that the child is a mature minor and has made a fully informed decision contrary to parental views.  Government may only interfere on a case-by-case basis, and government must bear the onus of proving or justifying its interference in a court of law, upon notice to the parents, who can dispute the government’s claims.

Bill 24’s infringement of parental rights was not justified by a blanket ban on withholding information from all parents, including the 99% of parents who love and support their children unconditionally, and know their children better than anyone else.  Requiring school principals and teachers, by law, to withhold information from all parents without exception was contrary to the Constitution, contrary to Canada’s legal obligations under international law, contrary to the Alberta Bill of Rights, and contrary to other Alberta legislation such as the Family Law Act.

Section 7 of the Charter only permits interference with a parent’s role after due process, on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.  Section 2 of the Charter protects a parent’s right to educate based on parents’ own conscience and religious beliefs.  The Charter also protects the right of religious educators not to be compelled to express thoughts and beliefs against their will.

The prohibition on parental notification concerning a GSA or GSA-related activity violated the fundamental right of parents to be informed concerning their children’s education.  Further, there was no real benefit to be realized from the prohibition, since the few children at risk from their parents are already protected by child protection legislation.

Bill 24 evidenced the government’s intention to control parents and religious schools and infringe their constitutional rights.   In so doing, the government undermined or effectively negated the exercise of parental rights in education, through the choices of parents to opt out of the public schools and enrol their children in schools consistent with their beliefs, religious and conscientious.  Rather than respecting parents’ choices, Bill 24 instead compelled independent schools to adopt policy positions in support of the government’s preferred ideology, evidenced in the materials it supports and recommends for use in GSAs.  This requirement violated parents’ and private schools’ fundamental freedoms of conscience and religion, thought, belief, opinion and expression, and association, guaranteed under section 2 of the Charter.

Bill 24 was therefore unconstitutional, as both its purpose and effect was to deny the rights of parents under section 7 and section 2 of the Charter, and to do so without the requisite justification.

A summary of the Justice Centre’s legal analysis on Bill 24 can be found here.

In September of 2018, Deputy Minister Curtis Clark threatened religious schools with defunding and loss of accreditation if they did not remove religious content from their “Safe and Caring” school policies.

During the week of October 1-5, several schools whose Safe and Caring policies had been deemed non-compliant by the Alberta Education “Safe and Caring Team” requested clarification (123) as to how the religious views expressed in their policies could be found to violate “diversity” or be “unwelcoming, uncaring and/or disrespectful”.The October correspondence showed the Alberta government refusing to provide any explanation as to how, for example, “diversity” is threatened by a school’s policy that reflects the school’s belief in the Bible as truth.  The October correspondence showed Alberta Education justifying its ban on faith references in school policies solely on the basis of “the opinion of the Minister.”

Various schools responded to this “rainbow reprimand” by asking simple and direct questions about how or why the religious content of their school policies was contrary to “diversity” or contrary to providing a safe, welcoming, caring and respectful learning environment.  Alberta Education responded with a form response (12) that cited only “the opinion of the Minister” to support Alberta Education’s conclusion that these schools’ religious beliefs, expressed in their own school policies, were unacceptable.

A hearing of the Bill 24 court injunction application was held on June 20, 2018, at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Medicine Hat. On June 27, the Court dismissed the application for an injunction. The Applicants appealed this decision to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal issued a split decision, with Justice McDonald holding that there would be irreparable harm done to the schools in question if they are forced to comply the legislation that impinges their religious beliefs in order to keep open pending a determination of its constitutionality.

This matter did not proceed to a hearing on the merits.

On July 5, 2019, the Alberta Legislature passed Bill 8, which replaced the School Act, including those provisions amended by Bill 24, with the Education Act, effective September 1, 2019. Accordingly, on September 12, 2019, the court challenge to Bill 24 was officially discontinued.

Independent Baptist Academies v. Minister of Education

The Justice Centre has responded to an Order that Alberta Education Minister David Eggen issued to two Edmonton-area private Christian schools, in regard to Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs).

On November 14, 2016, Minister Eggen received a Report from Edmonton lawyer Dan Scott, who had been asked to conduct an Inquiry into Harvest Baptist Academy and Meadows Baptist Academy, both operated by the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society (“IBCES”).  Together the two schools have 84 students, of whom only seven are high-school aged (grades 7-12).  Dan Scott’s Report concludes that both of these schools have been, and are currently, in legislative compliance with the School Act.  On March 22, 2017, Minister Eggen issued an Order telling the schools to comply with the School Act.

In a letter responding to the Minister’s Order, the Justice Centre points out the Minister’s failure to comply with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FOIPP Act”), under which Eggen was ordered to release the report by February 6, 2017.  Further, the two schools in respect of which the Report was written did not receive the Report prior to its release to the media and general public.  Calgary lawyer and Justice Centre president John Carpay describesthis as “a lack of courtesy and professionalism.”

The Justice Centre has drawn attention to the 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Loyola High School v. Quebec, in which the Court held that the government cannot “undermine the character of lawful religious institutions and disrupt the vitality of religious communities”, including religious schools. The Court was unanimous in finding that the Education Minister in that case had unlawfully limited freedom of religion.

The Justice Centre further refers the Minister to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.  Canada’s Constitution also recognizes the right of parents to impart their values to their children through religious schools, regardless of how popular or unpopular that religion’s teachings may be at a particular time or place.

The Court in Loyola quoted from Article 18(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Canada ratified in 1976, and which requires governments to “undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents to … ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”  This Covenant is legally binding on Canada and other party states.

In March of 2016, every school in Alberta submitted its anti-bullying policies to the Education Minister.  Catholic schools have submitted policies that do not allow GSAs to be set up in Catholic schools.  Muslim, Jewish, Christian and other religious schools have submitted similar policies, insisting that student clubs must be respectful of the school’s beliefs and values.

The Justice Centre’s letter reiterates the request from the two Edmonton-area Christian schools, and other private religious schools, to meet face-to-face with the Education Minister.

Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

The Justice Centre has been granted intervener status in the appeal of the decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in The Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, 2018 ONSC 579 (CanLII).

The CPSO has adopted policies that require medical practitioners to (1) provide “an effective referral” for medical procedures and services, even if those services conflict with a doctor’s conscientious or religious beliefs, and even to perform such services when “necessary to prevent imminent harm”; and (2) provide “an effective referral” for physician-assisted suicide, also known as Medical Assistance in Dying (“MAID”). The Justice Centre’s intervention in these two cases will focus on the Supreme Court’s repeated rulings that there is no Charter right to health care.  We make the point that there is therefore no Charter right to any medical procedure, including MAID.  Further, there is no right, Charter or otherwise, to demand that an individual doctor perform or provide an “effective referral” for a specific medical procedure or service that violates that doctor’s conscientious or religious beliefs.  On the contrary, doctors have protected conscience and religious rights under section 2(a) of the Charter, and government bodies like the College are required to respect those Charter freedoms. This case was heard June 13-15, 2018. The lower Court dismissed the Applicants’ claims in both cases.

The Justice Centre intervened in the CMDS’ appeal of this ruling. The Ontario Court of Appeal heard this case on January 21 and 22, 2019. A decision was released on May 14, 2019. The ruling upholds the lower court decision. CMDS is considering next steps.

Canadian Christian Lobby v. University of British Columbia

The Justice Centre has written to University of British Columbia (UBC) president Santa J. Ono, commending the University for its decision to permit activist Jenn Smith to give a public lecture at UBC’s Vancouver campus on Sunday, June 23, 2019.  However, UBC insisted on charging the organizer a “security fee.” The Justice Centre has warned UBC to refrain from charging “security fees” at University-sanctioned events, a censorship tactic becoming increasingly common at Canada’s public universities.

In early June 2019, a grassroots organization called Canadian Christian Lobby (CCL) submitted a request to UBC to book a room for a lecture by Jenn Smith titled “Erosion of Freedom” and subsequent question and answer period.  Mr. Smith is a local transgender person who regularly speaks publicly on issues regarding transgenderism, individual freedoms and women’s rights.
UBC approved the booking request but required CCL to pay a $500 “security fee” in addition to paying the room rental and other fees.  No reason was provided for the security fee.  CCL paid the fees, including the security fee, and the event was scheduled for June 23.

On June 19, four days before the event, UBC demanded an additional $750 security fee to be paid in less than 24 hours as a condition of the event proceeding.  UBC made vague allusions to safety as the reason for the sudden and last-minute imposition of an additional security fee.  Not desiring the event to be cancelled, CCL reluctantly paid to UBC the additional $750.

The event proceeded on the evening of June 23.  Unfortunately, three disruptive protestors, one of them wearing a face mask, found their way into the room in which the event was taking place. As Mr. Smith was beginning his lecture, the three disruptive protestors moved to the front of the room, sat down facing the audience and began to chant loudly, preventing the approximately 75 attendees from listening to Mr. Smith’s presentation.  About this time, the fire alarm was activated by an unidentified individual.

Thankfully, UBC campus security responded appropriately by inviting police officers present to escort the disruptive protesters out of the room, and by permitting the event attendees to re-enter the room after taking a short period of time to deactivate the fire alarm and ensure no fire was present in the building.  The event continued without any further disruption.

In its letter, sent on June 28, the Justice Centre commends UBC “for upholding freedom of expression on its campus by acting appropriately to ensure the removal of the disruptive individuals attempting to prevent the event attendees from listening to Mr. Smith, and by ensuring the Event resumed in a timely manner following the activation of the fire alarm.”

“It is an immeasurable benefit to students and the general public alike when controversial issues are permitted to be addressed in the marketplace of ideas,” explains the Justice Centre’s letter.

In this regard, UBC acted in accordance with its position that “behaviour that obstructs free and full discussion, not only of ideas that are safe and accepted, but of those which may be unpopular or even abhorrent, vitally threatens the integrity of the University’s forum.”

However, the imposition of the security fee served as a strong disincentive onto the event organizers in an attempt to indirectly effect the cancellation of the event and thereby absolve UBC of being required to act to uphold the freedom to express “controversial” views on campus.

The $1,250 security fee risks a “hecklers veto”—the power of obstructive and lawless individuals and groups to stifle dialogue and the exchange of ideas they disapprove of.  The likelihood of “protests” and unsupported fears about “safety” do not justify penalizing peaceful speakers by imposing security fees.

The Justice Centre is pleased to commend UBC for allowing this event to proceed, but it’s far from a perfect score. Security fees must be challenged before we price free expression out of existence for thousands of Canadian students who can barely afford tuition.

Oger v. Whatcott

The Justice Centre intervened in the hearing of Oger v. Whatcott (No. 16408) in the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

During the 2017 British Columbia provincial election campaign, activist Bill Whatcott handed out over 1,000 flyers in the electoral district of Vancouver False Creek.  The flyer expressed Whatcott’s opinions and “concern about the promotion and growth of homosexuality and transvestitism in British Columbia.”  In his flyers, Whatcott asserted that NDP candidate Morgane Oger was a male, and argued that “[t]hose who promote falsehoods like the NDP and BC’s major media . . . do so to their eternal peril.”

Oger narrowly lost the campaign to a former Vancouver mayor.

Oger filed a human rights complaint against Whatcott, alleging that Whatcott’s flyers had exposed Oger to discrimination, hatred and contempt under section 7 of the BC Human Rights Code.

In December of 2017, the Tribunal granted the Justice Centre permission to intervene in this case, to make submissions in defence of freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  The Tribunal noted that the Justice Centre “may provide useful input … with regard to the law”.

At a five- day hearing before the Human Rights Tribunal, running December 11-14th and 17th, 2018, the Justice Centre provided oral and written submissions concerning the interpretation and application of the freedom of expression, guaranteed under section 2(b) of the Charter, in the Tribunal’s adjudication of the complaint and the complainant’s applications for costs.  In particular, the Justice Centre’s submissions focused on the critical importance of freedom of expression to the democratic discourse, especially during elections.  In this context, censoring expression of honest beliefs and views made during an election campaign runs directly contrary to the values underlying freedom of expression and the right to vote under section 3 of the Charter.   The purpose of election campaigns is to sift false allegations from true allegations, poor character from good character, and bad policies from good policies. To achieve this, citizens must not be prevented from expressing their beliefs and to criticize candidates openly and publicly.  Likewise, if the Tribunal only to permits the electorate to hear censored opinions and approved beliefs, Canada’s democracy will become a sham. The Tribunal released its decision on March 27, 2019, ruling that Mr. Whatcott had violated section 7 of the BC Human Rights Code and ordering that he pay $55,000 in damages.

Markling v. Port Moody

The Justice Centre has secured a victory for individual freedoms in British Columbia, after challenging an Orwellian ticket issued by the City of Port Moody for a “gather[ing] without permission” in one of the City’s parks.

On June 11, 2018, the City of Port Moody issued a permit to Waldene Markling for her and an organization called Culture Guard to hold a rally in support of “quality education.” The rally was scheduled for July 14, 2018 at Rocky Point Park, a large 3.4 acre park with an outdoor stage that is commonly used by members of the public for peaceful assemblies.

Two days prior to the rally, the City emailed Ms. Markling to state that it was revoking the permit because “the City does not rent our spaces to groups supporting or opposing an issue.” This decision followed an email exchange between City officials who were concerned about the rally being “political in nature”. The City further stated that proceeding with the Rally, whether at Rocky Point Park or anywhere else in the city, would contravene unspecified provisions of the City’s Community Facilities Rules and Regulations By-law.

Aware of their Charter rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly, Ms. Markling and Culture Guard proceeded to hold the event as planned on July 14.

A diverse group of more than two hundred concerned citizens of many faiths and ethnic backgrounds attended the rally. They listened to speakers, including prominent education advocate Kari Simpson. A small group of protesters also attended, one of whom went onto the stage and proceeded to yell and heckle as loud as she could, delaying the start of the rally.  She refused to leave and had to be removed by the police.

The City subsequently issued a By-law ticket and charged Ms. Markling for “gather[ing] without permission”. Ms. Markling reached out to the Justice Centre to help challenge the ticket.

The City’s By-law unjustifiably limits freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly as protected by sections 2(b) and 2(c) of the Charter because it prohibits all public gatherings of more than 50 people without the consent of the Manager of Parks. The City acted unconstitutionally by issuing the ticket.

The law firm prosecuting the ticket on behalf of the City has withdrawn the ticket, implicitly recognizing that the Charter protects the right of individuals to engage in peaceful assembly and expression in City parks.

Murphy v. Vancouver Public Library

The Justice Centre sent a legal warning letter to the Vancouver Public Library, requesting that the Library cease its interference with freedom of expression by rescinding a security fee to a group of citizens who organized a public lecture by Canadian feminist Meghan Murphy.  

Meghan Murphy is the founder and editor of Feminist Current, a popular Canadian feminist website.  A resident of Vancouver, Murphy regularly engages in public discourse on the subjects of sex, sexuality, and gender.  She holds a Master’s degree from Simon Fraser University. She has become known internationally for her coverage of women’s issues, including the Vancouver waxing cases in which female aestheticians working out of their homes refused to wax the testicles of a local Vancouverite who sometimes identifies as a woman. In that case, the Justice Centre represented one of the women accused of discrimination on the basis of “gender identity and expression” at the BC Human Rights Tribunal. The case was withdrawn.

Several Vancouver women booked the Alice Mackay room at the Vancouver Public Library in November 2018, to hold the event “Meghan Murphy in Vancouver” in January 2019. On November 28, the Library’s Chief Librarian issued a statement regarding the event in which she stated that the Library “does not agree with the views of the Feminist Current”, and that “Meghan Murphy’s opinions are concerning”.

On December 3, the Library sent a letter to organizers, which states, in part, that “[the] event has attracted significant attention and we have been advised that there will likely be public protests against the event at or near the Library.” The Library demanded that the event not start at 6:30 PM as booked, but rather start no earlier than 9:30 p.m.—after the Library had closed.  It further demanded that, “to ensure safety”, Feminist Current must pay a fee of $2,047.50 for “additional security guards”.  The organizers protested the additional charge, noting that they already had retained private security.

The Justice Centre was retained to act for the organizers and sent a legal warning letter to Julia Morrison, Acting Director of Corporate Services and Facilities at the Vancouver Public Library, requesting that the Library cease its interference with freedom of expression by rescinding the security fee, which it characterized as “content-based discrimination” and a “heckler’s veto”. The Justice Centre also reminded the library that, as a government entity, the Library has a duty of neutrality, and its interference with the event infringed the Charter rights of both speakers and listeners.

After some discussion between the parties’ legal counsel, the Library agreed that the Event would proceed. The Library then reduced by over half the security fee, made no attempts to collect the fee in advance, and has not attempted to collect it since the event took place.

Poyer v. JY (BC Human Rights Tribunal)

British Columbian aesthetician Shelah Poyer and her boyfriend Jeremy Paradis received a Human Rights complaint for Ms. Poyer’s refusal to perform a Brazilian waxing service on a pre-op transwoman.  Following representation from the Justice Centre, the Human Rights complaint which had been filed against Ms. Poyer and Mr. Paradis has been formally withdrawn.

In March of 2018, the Complainant responded to an advertisement posted on Facebook by Poyer advertising her waxing service. The Complainant asked Poyer if she performs “Brazilians”, which is a waxing of the female groin area. Poyer responded, “Not for men sorry”. Poyer was aware that the procedure for a Brazilian waxing is  not used for men; rather men receive “Manzilians”(also called “Bro-zilians”) waxes, which utilizes a different wax and a different method than that used for Brazilian waxes. Poyer does not have the requisite supplies to wax male genitalia, nor has she received the requisite training to provide this service. As such, she is unqualified and unable to provide the service.

The complainant phoned Poyer’s former employer (also named as a respondent in the case), the following day asking to speak with Poyer to continue the conversation about why she was unable to provide the service for the Complainant. Ms. Poyer declined to speak further with the Complainant, not wishing to enter into further controversy.

On March 12, 2018, the complainant submitted a complaint to the BC Human Rights Tribunal against Shelah Poyer, her boyfriend, and Shelah’s former employer on grounds that they discriminated against the complainant on the basis of gender identity and expression. The Complainant sought $2,500 in damages.

A conference call with the BC Human Rights Tribunal was held Wednesday September 5, to deal with some procedural issues prior to the trial that was scheduled for October.  During that call, Justice Centre lawyer Jay Cameron informed the Tribunal that he intended to make an application to lift the confidentiality requirements that had been placed on this case, because the Complainant regularly identifies as a woman in public as the woman-only gym the Complainant attends, and on the internet, and that there was no valid reason to make an exception to the presumption that the Tribunal’s process be open and transparent. Cameron also confirmed that he had retained an expert for the trial in October who provides  male waxing, or “manzilians”, and who would give evidence at the hearing that waxing a scrotum and testicles requires a different technique than a “Brazilian” for women, and also requires special supplies and training. Statements made by the Complainant confirm the Complainant has intact male genitalia.

When the Complainant learned that Shelah Poyer, with the help of the Justice Centre, was mounting a vigorous defence to the complaint, the Complainant demanded that Cameron be removed as Poyer’s lawyer. This demand was refused. Shortly thereafter the Complainant submitted a “Withdrawal of Complaint” form to the Tribunal.

On September 10, 2018, the BC Human Rights Tribunal notified Ms. Poyer that the complaint had been formally withdrawn. The complaint against Poyer’s former employer, Mint Tanning Lounge, has been settled.

Cornerstone Christian Academy v. Battle River School Division

Founded in 1986, Cornerstone Christian Academy (CCA) is a school in Kingman, Alberta, one-hour south-east of Edmonton.  It provides K-12 education for approximately 180 students.

Parents in Camrose, Tofield and other towns have chosen to send their children to CCA because they agree with the school’s commitment to integrate knowledge of the Bible and its relevance into the approved Alberta curriculum.

In 2009, CCA entered into an agreement with the public school board, the Battle River School Division (BRSD), pursuant to provincial legislation which encourages school boards to incorporate “alternative programs”.  Alberta law provides parents with choices to have their children attend various alternative programs, which focus on sports, art, music, foreign languages, different religions, etc.

In 2017, BRSD issued a demand that CCA should not read or study “any scripture that could be considered offensive to particular individuals,” and suggested that CCA was not in compliance with the School Act and human rights legislation.

The BRSD dismissed an eight-page legal letter sent by the Justice Centre on June 8, on behalf of CCA, stating: “As for the board’s [BRSD’s] position it remains the same.” Consequently, CCA went public, and following a public meeting, BRSD agreed to meet with CCA.

Following two face-to-face meetings between BRSD and CCA representatives, BRSD agreed to issue a joint statement with CCA indicating that “[n]either the Board nor BRSD employees will censor the reading or teaching of the Bible at Cornerstone School.”  The statement also noted that “[a] productive dialogue occurred and both parties are eager to continue to work together.” The statement was made available to parents and staff at CCA.

On Friday, June 23, BRSD presented CCA with a proposed “Addendum” to the BRSD-CCA Agreement, to prohibit public disclosure of information in the future.

CCA responded on June 27, stating, in part, that “the Proposed Addendum seems to be a gag order, which we believe is inappropriate in the context of interactions between a representative parent Society and a public school Board.  The Society represents a community of people who have a vested interest in issues affecting CCA, and consequently we can not agree to the requirements and broad restrictions in the Proposed Addendum.”

On June 29, 2017, BRSD notified CCA that it was terminating the Agreement between BRSD and the Cornerstone Christian Society of Camrose.  This means that, unless the decision is reversed, BRSD will no longer operate Cornerstone Christian Academy as of June 30, 2018.

The written legal agreement between CCA and BRSD serves to fulfil the Alberta legislature’s stated objective to support diversity and parent choice through alternative programs.  Under Alberta law, these alternative programs include schools dedicated to various religious teachings (including Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism and Islam), sports, differing educational philosophies, etc.

In its agreement with CCA agreement, BRSD promises: “The Board will not attempt to change the essential nature of the CCA program, as set out in the agreed upon School Vision and Purpose as outlined in Schedule A.”   The School Vision and Purpose document clearly commits Cornerstone to be a Christian School, based on teaching from the Bible.

On December 22, 2017, the Justice Centre filed a court application against BRSD on behalf of Cornerstone Christian Society of Camrose and three parents of children who attend Cornerstone Christian Academy. The court application seeks judicial review of the decision of the Battle River School Division to unilaterally terminate the Master Agreement between the Society and BRSD. The court application also seeks a declaration that the decision made by BRSD on June 29, 2017 to terminate the Master Agreement is unreasonable, is a breach of the Master Agreement, was done in bad faith, is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is otherwise invalid. The application also seeks an injunction preventing the closure of Cornerstone until a court determines the lawfulness of the decision to close the school.

This application was heard in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in Wetaskawin on May 17, 2018. The court dismissed the application for an injunction.

The CCA applied for and received private school status in August 2018, and the application for judicial review of the BRSD decision was discontinued.

C.D. and N.D. v. Alberta Child and Family Services

Alberta Child and Family Services has backed down and reversed its denial of an Edmonton couple’s application to adopt children. The government had denied the application solely because of the couple’s religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality. This reversal follows a court application filed against Alberta Child and Family Services in November of 2017, seeking judicial review of the adoption application denial.

The married couple, who are referred to in filed court documents as “C.D” and “N.D.,” have no children of their own, and are currently unable to conceive due to medical complications. N.D. was adopted at birth himself. C.D. was keen to adopt an older child, for whom it is extremely challenging to find adoptive parents.

On October 7, 2016, C.D. and N.D. met with a Child and Family Services intake worker to submit their application to adopt. Their file was assigned to Catholic Social Services in Edmonton, which began the Home Study process of considering the applicants’ financial, emotional and social stability, and overall fitness to adopt. Catholic Social Services recommended to Alberta Child and Family Services that the couple be approved for adoption.

On March 6, 2017, Catholic Social Services advised the couple that Child and Family Services had further questions in regard to the couple’s beliefs regarding sexuality. The Home Study had evidenced that the couple are Evangelical Christians with biblical views on marriage and sexuality. The C.D. and N.D. reiterated their commitment to treating any child in their care with unconditional love, respect, and compassion regardless of what the child chose to do, and regardless of the child’s choices regarding sexual behavior.

On March 13, Catholic Social Services advised C.D. and N.D. that it was reversing its previous recommendation that they be approved for adoption. The rejection letter enclosed a revised Home Study Report that stated the couple should not be approved as adoptive parents because they would be unable to “help” a child who “has sexual identity issues” The rejection letter did not explain how or why the couple would be unable to “help” a child that they valued, loved, accepted and respected. The couple asked Catholic Social Services to reconsider their decision but were refused.

On May 3, the couple met with two Child and Family Services staff, who informed them that they had denied the couples’ application to adopt. The Casework Supervisor explained that Child and Family Services considered their religious beliefs regarding sexuality to be a “rejection” of children with LGBT sexual identities, and that this stance was the “official position of the Alberta government”. The couple was subsequently informed that the denial of their application was final.

The Justice Centre represented C.D. and N.D. in their legal challenge to the Alberta Child and Family Services decision. The Justice Centre’s court application, filed on November 1, sought judicial review of the May 3, 2017 decision of Child and Family Services to deny adoption to C.D. and N.D. on the basis of their sincere religious beliefs in regard to marriage and sexuality, and a declaration that the decision is “unreasonable and void by virtue of arbitrariness, bias, bad faith, as well as breaches of procedural fairness and natural justice.”

The court application further sought a declaration that the decision to deny adoption violates sections 2(a) and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Alberta Bill of Rights and the Alberta Human Rights Act.

Judicial Committee of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses & Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses v. Randy Wall

The Justice Centre intervened in the case of the Judicial Committee of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses & Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses v. Randy Wall on November 2, 2017.

Randy Wall became a Jehovah’s Witness (JW) in 1980, at the age of 20.  In 2014, he was disfellowshipped (expelled) after a local church committee determined that he was not sufficiently repentant for having been drunk and verbally abusive to his wife.

Mr. Wall appealed his expulsion to a higher committee within the JW organization, and ultimately to the governing Watchtower Society of Canada, without success.  He then took the JWs to court, arguing that he had been wrongly expelled, and that the hearings and the process were unfair.  As a realtor, Mr. Wall also claimed to have lost about half of his client base, because JWs now refused to have any business dealings with him, or even speak with him.

Rather than recognize that freedom of association prevents government (including courts) from interfering with the membership decisions of private associations, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that it had the jurisdiction to review the JWs’ membership decision.  This ruling was affirmed by the Alberta Court of Appeal.

The Justice Centre argued before the Supreme Court of Canada from its unique and non-religious perspective that freedom of association under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Bill of Rights guarantees the freedom of private, voluntary associations, including the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to determine membership criteria, to determine which individuals meet the criteria for membership, and to enforce these membership criteria, immune from judicial review. In consequence, neither courts nor governments can legally compel citizens to associate together unwillingly.

On May 31, 2018, the Supreme Court released its ruling, overturning the ruling of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, in which the court ruled that it had the jurisdiction to interfere with the Highwood Congregation’s decision to terminate Mr. Wall’s membership as a Jehovah’s Witness.

The Supreme Court’s ruling means that when Jehovah’s Witnesses (and other religious groups) make decisions about who is eligible to be a member of their religion, such decisions cannot be reviewed by a court and potentially overturned.

AMB at UBC v. UBC Vancouver AMS Student Society

The Justice Centre has sent a legal warning letter to the University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society (AMS) demanding that it reverse its decision to deny club recognition to the student group Advocacy for Men and Boys (AMB) after rejecting the group’s application on three separate occasions.

AMB’s mandate seeks to “build a movement centered on raising awareness of issues affecting Men and Boys through public education through positive, non-violent activism for a healthier society.” AMB seeks to engage with students about issues such as men’s health, fathers and family issues, suicide, violence, safety, workplace issues, misandry and the justice system.

AMB first applied to become an AMS-constituted club in August 2016. On September 14, 2016, the AMB Club received an email from then-Associate VP Administration Rob Willoughby stating that the application had been denied because the AMB Club’s mandate “overlapped” with the mandate of the AMS Student Society Healthier Masculinities Program.

AMB applied for club status again on January 31, 2017. Executive members of the club met with then-VP Administration for the AMS, Chris Scott, on February 24, 2017, to discuss the AMB Club’s application. On March 16, 2017, Chris Scott emailed AMB to state he had denied their application. In his email Mr. Scott cited AMB’s association with the UBC Free Speech club and AMB’s association with the Canadian Association For Equality (“CAFE”) as reasons for his decision. He further told the club that it was the opinion of the AMS Women’s Centre and Feminist Collective that AMB was “insufficiently cooperative” with the Feminist Collective.

The AMB Club applied for club status a third time on September 28, 2017. On October 31, Pooja Bhatti, VP Administration, emailed AMB to state the AMB Club’s application had again been denied. This time, the reason provided was that the AMB Club’s “goals are fulfilled by… the Healthy Masculinities program,” which Ms. Bhatti claimed is “very similar” to the AMB Club’s mandate.

Without being granted club status by the AMS Student Society, the AMB Club cannot participate in Club Days and Imagine Day, book space in buildings owned by the AMS Student Society or UBC Vancouver without paying a fee, or access general funding available to all AMS-constituted student clubs.

AMB was successful in achieving registered club status in the 2018-2019 school year. The Justice Centre continues to monitor this case.

uOttawa Students for Life v. Student Federation of the University of Ottawa

The Justice Centre has written to the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) to demand that it reverse its decision to revoke club status from uOttawa Students for Life (SFL).

SFL has been a registered campus club for the past 10 years.  During this time, SFL members have peacefully held events and shared their views on life issues.  SFL seeks to promote the value of all human life from conception to natural death, and engages other students in discussion and debate, consistent with the purpose of the university.

SFL requested club status in the fall semester and received an email on Friday, October 13, 2017, notifying SFL that it had been approved as a club by the SFUO.  However, one week later, on Friday, October 20, 2017, SFL received an email from the SFUO stating that SFL had been removed from the SFUO Clubs System. The email stated that the decision to revoke club status was “due to the ways in which your mandate is in contention with the SFUO’s principles.”

This decision to revoke club status follows a prior SFUO decision to censor SFL. On Thursday, September 28, 2017, an executive of the SFUO ordered SFL club members to stop tabling in the Jock Turcot University Centre on campus, despite SFL having used the proper channels to book space for the tabling. SFUO attempted to justify its decision by citing unspecified complaints received about SFL.  SFL was further informed that their club goes against unspecified SFUO policy, implying that SFL’s views on life issues could not be expressed there. The SFL members who were tabling were told that University of Ottawa Protection Services would be called if they did not leave the Jock Turcot University Centre, and so they left, less than 45 minutes into their tabling event.

Recognition of club status from the SFUO is crucial for a student group to engage with other students at the University of Ottawa. Without it, students cannot access space and resources available to other student clubs and funded through mandatory SFUO fees.

The Justice Centre’s letter to SFUO concludes:

We demand that the Constitutional Committee of the Board of Administration of the SFUO exercise its authority to correct the unlawful decision, and that the SFUO return club status to SFL and its position in the SFUO Clubs System no later than November 3, 2017.

Youth Protecting Youth v. University of Victoria

The Justice Centre has written a letter to the University of Victoria (UVic) requesting that UVic adhere to its policies in upholding the rule of law on campus and disciplining students that attempt to censor opinions they disagree with through vandalism.

Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), a registered student club is “a group of undergraduate students from the University of Victoria who share a common love and respect for all human life, without regard for gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, level of development, or physical capabilities.”

On the morning of November 16, 2017, YPY members erected a display in an area of the UVic campus known as the “Quad”, consisting of 10,000 small blue and pink flags planted into the ground. The flags represent the approximately 100,000 abortions that occur in Canada annually. The purpose of this and other similar flag displays are to raise awareness of the fact that Canada has no law regulating abortion. YPY had emailed Campus Security to notify them of the event on November 15.

At about noon, UVic students began to gather to protest the display. The protest became larger as time went on, increasing in number and intensity. At approximately 1:30 pm, the crowd of protesting students grew to approximately 30 individuals. Some of the protesting students became verbally aggressive and told YPY members that they would remove the flags themselves if YPY refused to do so. Concerned about the protesting students’ threats, YPY called Campus Security. Many protesting students then began pulling up the flags and putting them in piles.

As the protesting students began to destroy the flag display, two Campus Security officers arrived, but declined to take any action. The officers simply watched as the protesting students dismantled YPY members’ flag display. The officers explained to YPY members that they must remain “neutral” and that they could not take any action to protect the flag display because it could be interpreted as Campus Security taking a position in support of YPY. The officers further explained that intervention could “escalate” the situation.

Unopposed, the protesting students completely destroyed YPY’s  flag display.

The Justice Centre’s letter explains that, Campus Security’s claim that if it acted to protect the flag display from student vandalism, it would not be viewed as “neutral” represents a gross misunderstanding of the legal duties of Campus Security to protect the property of students and to respond to violations of UVic’s policies. Campus Security’s job is to uphold the rule of law on campus—which includes protecting student expression—not stand idly by while a mob of bullies vandalize an approved student display.

As the Justice Centre further stated in its letter, freedom of expression is not merely an aspiration or ideal; it is the lifeblood of liberal democracy and the cornerstone of higher education. There should be no greater celebration of, and protection for, freedom of expression, including the expression of minority viewpoints, than at institutions of higher learning, such as UVic. Public educational institutions ought to be a locus of peaceful, vigorous debate where diversity of thought is cultivated, not regressive enclaves of censorship.

YPY has been approved to erect the same flag display on February 22, 2018. In its letter, the Justice Centre requests that, if students threaten to vandalize or disrupt the event on February 22, UVic adhere to its policies and procedures, including protecting free expression on campus and disciplining students that engage in censorship through vandalism.

John Derry, associate director of UVic’s Office of Student Life, Division of Student Affairs, has made a statement apologizing for the miscommunication:

“[The Office of Student Life is] aware of the potential impact when groups like this hold events on campus, and we provided notification to many units across campus but, in this case, did not notify the UVSS in a timely way as we have in the past. This has been corrected and will not happen again.”

This second rendition of the event took place without interruption in the Quad on February 22, 2018.

Ryerson Men’s Issues Awareness Society v. Ryerson Students’ Union

The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) denied club status to a student group seeking to discuss issues and views on campus that RSU executives disagree with.

The Men’s Issues Awareness Society at Ryerson (MIAS) is a student group established in 2015 by students at Ryerson “to host discussions and bring social awareness to issues that disproportionately affect men and boys, such as higher rates of suicide, homelessness, workplace injuries and failure in school.”  Nearly half of MIAS’ members are women.

On October 19, 2015, MIAS submitted its application to RSU for recognition as a student group.  At a meeting with RSU’s Student Group Committee on October 26, RSU told MIAS that there was no need for a men’s issues group.  RSU took the position that other groups like the Women and Trans Collective were already addressing many of the issues MIAS sought to focus on.  Further, RSU claimed that men have “systemic privilege,” and that a group focused on men’s issues would “harass” women and make them feel “unsafe”.

On October 27, 2015, MIAS was informed that its application for club status had been rejected. MIAS immediately appealed the decision, making numerous changes to its constitution to answer concerns the RSU had listed. These amendments expressly stated MIAS’ pre-existing commitments to remain independent of any external control, to reject all forms of violence and hate speech, to take all precautions for safety at any group functions, and to provide a safe place for discussions free of fear for personal safety. Nevertheless, on January 26, 2016, the RSU Board of Directors voted to reject MIAS’ appeal.

As a result of RSU’s decision to deny club status, MIAS is excluded from RSU club services such as funding, advertising, event approval services, and free room and facility bookings, even though MIAS members are required to pay fees to RSU.  RSU has recognized over 80 other student groups, ranging from ideological and religious clubs to shared ethnic and hobby clubs.  Without student group recognition, MIAS has been forced to hold events off campus, because they cannot afford to book event rooms on campus.  This has made it very difficult for the group to engage with their peers and attract new members.

The Justice Centre filed a court application against RSU on behalf of MIAS.  In the court application, MIAS sought a declaration that the decision of the RSU to deny their application for student group recognition (i) was contrary to the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness, (ii) was tainted by a closed mind and bias, and (iii) was not made in good faith; that it exceeds RSU’s jurisdiction and is contrary to RSU’s own policies and rules; and that it was unreasonable, discriminatory and contrary to fundamental common law values and the values of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by failing to respect Ryerson University students’ freedom of expression and freedom of association.  This court application further sought an order prohibiting RSU from limiting access to its services and other resources on account of the thoughts, beliefs, opinions, expressions or associations of students or student groups.

On January 17, 2017, the Justice Centre questioned current RSU President, Obaid Ullah, and Kevin Arriola was questioned by RSU’s counsel.  On February 7, 2017, the application against the Ryerson Students’ Union was consolidated with the cases against UTMSU and the Student Association at Durham College and UOIT (both described below).  All three cases were heard together in Toronto, January 24, 2018. A decision was released February 26, 2018, with the court dismissing all three challenges.

Speak for the Weak v. Student Association at Durham College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology

The Student Association of Durham College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology (“Student Association”) refused to grant club recognition to the student group, Speak for the Weak, due to its stance on abortion.  The Student Association claims that allowing a pro-life club on campus would constitute “systemic societal oppression”, and would violate “human rights”.  The Student Association further claims that only clubs which support abortion are “equity-seeking” and therefore allowed on campus.

Speak for the Weak’s application for club status was denied in September 2015.  The students spent most of the fall semester unsuccessfully attempting to appeal the decision to the Student Association’s Board of Directors. Without club status, student groups cannot gain access to Student Association space and resources, making it very difficult to conduct activities and engage with the student body.

In a court application filed on behalf of Speak for the Weak, the Justice Centre argued that the Student Association has violated its own policies and rules, failed to follow the principles of natural justice, based its decision on irrelevant considerations, and failed to respect students’ freedoms of expression and association.

On February 7, 2017, the application against the Student Association was consolidated with the cases against UTMSU and the Ryerson Students’ Union.  All three cases were heard together in Toronto, January 24, 2018. A decision was released February 26, 2018, with the court dismissing all three challenges.

 UTM Students for Life v. University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union

The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) refused to renew the club status of Students for Life for the 2015-16 year, effectively barring the student group from using the student centre and accessing student union resources.  As a result, in September of 2015, Students for Life could not join other campus clubs in setting up a table during clubs’ week—a key event for recruiting new members.

UTMSU had granted club status for Students for Life in the 2014-15 school year, but changed its mind specifically because of Students for Life’s “stance on Abortion”.  UTMSU’s mission statement includes a commitment “[t]o safeguard the individual rights of the student, regardless of race, creed, sex … or personal or political beliefs,” and lists “strength in diverse voices and opinions” as a “fundamental belief.”

After receiving a legal warning letter from the Justice Centre in October 2015, Russ Adade, UTMSU Vice-President, changed his previous rationale for denying club status to Students for Life, namely, the club’s stance on abortion.  Adade instead told Students for Life that the reason their club was denied status was “violations and discrepancies we found within your constitution in relation to the clubs handbook and UTMSU operational policy as it pertains to clubs.”

Students for Life immediately made the required changes to their constitution, but UTMSU has continued to deny club status, necessitating a court application.

The Justice Centre has filed a court application on behalf of Students for Life against UTMSU for violating its own rules, for acting with bias and bad faith, for breaching the rules of natural justice and procedural fairness, and for failing to respect students’ fundamental freedoms of expression and association.

On February 7, 2017, the application against the UTMSU was consolidated with the cases against the Ryerson Students’ Union and the Student Association at Durham College and UOIT.  All three cases were heard together in Toronto, January 24, 2018. A decision was released February 26, 2018, with the court dismissing all three challenges.

Kisilowsky v. Manitoba

The Justice Centre represented a former Manitoba Marriage Commissioner, Kevin Kisilowsky, who lost his licence to perform marriages after he indicated that, based on his religious beliefs, he was unable to perform same-sex ceremonies.

Apart from Mr. Kisilowsky and a very small number of other marriage commissioners, almost all of Manitoba’s more than 1,000 marriage commissioners are willing and able to provide same-sex ceremonies. There is no need for Manitoba to require each and every marriage commissioner to be willing to provide this service. Mr. Kisilowsky sought only that the government provide reasonable accommodation for him, as other provinces have done for their marriage commissioners, without imposing hardship on any party.

Derek and Frances Baars v. Hamilton Children’s Aid Society

In 2015, Derek and Frances Baars completed thorough training on foster parenting.  CAS completed a “homestudy”, which included numerous interviews and home visits over a period of several months.

The Baars welcomed two sisters, ages three and four, into their home in December 2015.  The sisters were temporarily separated from their biological parents, with the goal of returning them to live with their parents again in the future.  A weekly journal was passed back and forth between the Baars and the biological parents, who made various requests that the Baars carried out.

The Baars are devout Christians and had informed CAS that they do not celebrate Halloween.  CAS said this was not a problem; someone else could take the girls trick-or-treating if the biological parents requested this.  CAS had also noted in its Homestudy Report that the Baars “do not endorse Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny as they do not wish to lie to children.”

“From the beginning, it was our delight to have the girls with us.  We loved them from the moment that they came to us,” states Frances Baars in an affidavit filed this week in the court application against CAS.  The Baars regularly took the girls to a park near their home, attended and hosted playdates with other girls of similar age, played educational games, and painted with them, which provided hours of entertainment.

CAS’s Support Worker Tracey Lindsay visited the Baars and the girls, and acknowledged that they looked well cared for in all respects.  However, Ms. Lindsay informed the Baars that it was part of their duty as foster parents to teach the girls about the Easter Bunny, because she considered it part of Canadian culture.  The Baars informed Ms. Lindsay that they intended to hide chocolate eggs and have the girls find them at Easter, and play other games.  The Baars planned not to speak to the girls about the Easter Bunny at all, unless the girls specifically asked questions about this

In late February 2016, Ms. Lindsay informed the Baars that the girls would be taken away, and their foster home permanently closed, if the Baars refused to inform the girls proactively that the Easter Bunny is a real entity.  Ms. Lindsay’s demand was known to CAS, and was supported by her superiors.  All this despite the fact that the biological parents had never expressed a desire for the girls to be told that the Easter Bunny is real.

The Baars offered to let the girls stay with another foster family over the Easter period.  Ms. Lindsay refused.  On March 3, 2016, Ms. Lindsay told the Baars that their foster home would be shut down, and the girls would be taken away the next morning.  The Baars requested a transition period of more than 24 hours, believing that a sudden change would be unwise and inappropriate for the girls.  Ms. Lindsay refused.

As Frances Baars explains it in her affidavit:

We had poured our lives into taking care of the girls.  To have them suddenly ripped away from us was deeply painful. … It was the days after they left that the house felt empty without them. I lacked desire to do anything. As remains of their belongings kept popping up—we had so little time to pack the girls’ belongings that we weren’t able to collect everything—it finally struck me that they weren’t coming back. Several weeks later the girls’ worker stopped by to pick up their remaining belongings, including the scrapbooks I had made for the girls, which I had purposely held on to so I could finish the scrapbooks before sending them on. The scrapbooks were my final way of showing our love and care, and to provide them with reminders of all the good times we had together. A picture of the girls is still on our fridge, so we can remember the happy times we shared.

The Baars asked Ms. Lindsay if they could keep their foster home open just for infants, or for families that do not celebrate the cultural practices of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.  Ms. Lindsay refused.

Derek and Frances Baars filed a court application against the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society, seeking a declaration that the CAS had violated the Charter rights of the Baars by closing down their foster home because the couple refused to tell the girls in their care that the Easter Bunny is a real entity.

In a decision released Tuesday March 6, 2018, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice declared that CAS violated the Baars’ Charter freedoms of conscience, religion and expression by ordering them to tell the two young girls in their care that the Easter bunny is real, and by closing the Baars’ foster home when they refused to lie.

The Court vindicated the Baars, finding that “the Baars were constantly promoting the children’s wellbeing” and “were clearly operating with the children’s best interests in mind” (see para 139). Not only that, the Court found that the Baars “complied with all of the [biological] mother’s requests” (para 138).

In its decision the Court reiterated the question of “is it more important to have the Easter Bunny or permanency?” before finding “[t]he [CAS] very clearly chose the Easter Bunny” (para 145).

The Court was “more than satisfied that the CAS’ actions interfered substantially with the Baars’ religious beliefs (para 73), including their belief that it is wrong to lie.  Further, in finding that CAS violated the Baars’ freedom of expression, the Court noted that the social worker’s “arbitrary conduct effectively sought to compel the Baars to express an opinion with regard to the Easter Bunny that was not their own” (para 114).

“The Court’s decision vindicates the Baars and allows them to finally pursue adoption without fear of being blacklisted by the actions of the Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton,” stated lawyer John Carpay, president of Justice Centre, which represented Derek and Frances Baars in their court application against CAS.

“It’s unfortunate that a court ruling was necessary to make clear that people can be good foster parents even if they refuse to say that the Easter Bunny is real,” continued Carpay.

Toronto v. Fountas

Erik Fountas was peacefully expressing his beliefs on a public sidewalk when Toronto Police charged him with obstructing a street.

Around noon on February 2, 2016, Erik Fountas and a colleague began expressing their opinions to members of the public in Toronto, near the corner of Yonge Street and Gould Street. Erik was speaking on a wide sidewalk area, near a large concrete staircase that leads up to a Ryerson University building. Erik was speaking at the street edge of the sidewalk, facing toward the staircase, when a small crowd formed in front of him.

The Toronto Police Service (TPS) received a complaint about a comment Erik allegedly made while he was speaking to the small group of listeners. Two TPS officers requested that Erik leave. When he refused, they issued him a ticket for “encumbering a street” and therefore violating 313-2A of the Toronto Municipal Code. The By-law in question stated:

“No person shall obstruct, encumber, injure or foul or cause or permit the obstructing, encumbering, injuring or fouling of any street.”

The TPS officers claimed that the crowd listening to Erik was so large that it blocked entirely the passage of pedestrians on the Gould Street sidewalk.

The Justice Centre represented Erik as he challenged the ticket and defended his Charter section 2(b) freedom of expression.  Several days before the trial (scheduled for May 29, 2017) the Crown withdrew the charges.

Edmonton v. Dale

The Justice Centre has helped secure another victory for the rights of an Edmonton man to express his opinions peacefully on a public sidewalk.

On June 3, 2016, “Dale” was peacefully speaking on a street corner in Edmonton when he was ticketed by the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) for allegedly “causing noise that disturbs peace to another” in violation of a bylaw.  As with the case of another client of the Justice Centre previously posted here, Dale was informed that he was not any louder than a guitarist playing nearby or the usual traffic noise. The police nevertheless issued Dale a ticket because, they said, they received a complaint and therefore had to issue a ticket.

The Justice Centre took on Dale’s case, fully prepared for a long court fight if necessary, in order to protect the free expression rights of all Canadians. The charges were stayed by the Crown in October 2016.

The Justice Centre fully supports the existence of noise by-laws, and their enforcement by police.  But using noise-bylaws to silence speech that is not loud but merely unpopular is an abuse of government power that must be challenged and checked.

Following intervention from the Justice Centre, the Crown has now stayed three separate charges laid by EPS against citizens for peacefully expression their opinions in public. The Justice Centre has written a letter to the Chief of Edmonton’s Police Service about the issuance of these tickets, and the current practice of Edmonton police to silence Canadians who wish to express their views peacefully on a public sidewalk.

A response from EPS is pending.

Trinity Western University v. Law Society of British Columbia

The law societies of B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia have ruled against recognizing the law school of Trinity Western University (“TWU”), a private Evangelical Christian university in Langley, B.C.  All other law societies in Canada have voted in favour of accepting TWU’s graduates. As a consequence of the Law Society of B.C.’s (“LSBC”) refusal to recognize TWU’s law program the B.C. Minister of Advanced Education rescinded the province’s approval of the law program.  TWU filed an Originating Application for judicial review of the LSBC decision.

On December 10, 2015, the Chief Justice of the B.C. Supreme Court ruled against the LSBC.  The LSBC has appealed to the Court of Appeal of B.C.

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has approved the law program of TWU as meeting academic and professional standards.  The LSBC admits there is nothing wrong with TWU’s law program, but claims that TWU’s Community Covenant discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community.  The Community Covenant prohibits numerous legal activities such as vulgar or obscene language, drunkenness, viewing pornography, gossip, and sexual activity outside of the marriage of one man and one woman.

As an intervenor in all three provinces where TWU’s right to start a law school has been challenged, the Justice Centre argued for the Charter section 2(d) right to freedom of association, including the right of every charity, ethnic and cultural association, sports club, temple, church, and political group to establish its own rules and membership requirements.

On November 1, 2016, the Court of Appeal of British Columbia ruled in favour of Trinity Western.

AFDI v. City of Edmonton

The Justice Centre represented a non-profit human rights advocacy group in a court action against the City of Edmonton. The City cancelled bus advertisements that opposed the “honour killings” of women and girls, in response to complaints about the ads.

In October of 2013, ads ran on Edmonton Transit buses reading “Muslim Girls Honor Killed By Their Families”, showing photos of Aqsa Parvez and six other women, murdered for choosing to live by Western values like women’s equality. The rest of the ad read “Is your family threatening you? Is there a fatwa on your head? We can help: go to”.

So-called “honour killings” occur when a woman is considered to have sullied the family’s honour through some sexual indiscretion, or even perceived immodesty. Her killing is considered to cleanse the family’s honour. Aqsa Parvez was only 16 when she was strangled to death for refusing to wear a hijab. Aqsa’s brother and father felt that not wearing a head scarf dishonoured the family, so they killed Aqsa in her own home in Mississauga, on December 10, 2007.

The transit ads were paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a non-profit, non-partisan human rights advocacy group. The organization defends freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, individual rights, and the equality of all people before the law.

Edmonton Transit pulled the ad after Edmonton City Councillor Amerjeet Sohi called to complain about it.  The head of Edmonton Transit immediately ordered the ad taken down, without seeing the ad, considering its contents, or contemplating freedom of expression as defined by the Supreme Court.  Edmonton Transit refused to answer questions from the American Freedom Defence Initiative (AFDI), the non-profit group which had paid for the ads.  Only after AFDI started a court action did Edmonton start to claim that the ad was anti-Muslim.

Edmonton Transit has no consistent standard when it comes to bus ads.  It previously dismissed complaints about a pro-Islamic ad, posted on buses, stating: “ISLAM The message of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad”, an assertion sure to be offensive to Jews and Christians.  The Supreme Court requires governments to be neutral.  But there is nothing neutral about permitting a pro-Islamic ad while removing an ad that Edmonton Transit (months later) called anti-Islamic.

The Court of Queen’s Bench heard oral argument in September 2016. The decision by Justice John Gill in American Freedom Defence Initiative v. City of Edmonton was released on October 4. The court rejected AFDI’s free expression claim, upholding Edmonton’s arbitrary double standard.

Rather than considering the ad alone, the court looked at internet postings about AFDI that were captured two years after the ad ran.  The court, however, did not apply this same technique to the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which paid for the pro-Islam ad.  A quick internet search reveals numerous allegations about ICNA connections to al-Qaeda, Hamas, anti-Semites, extremists, terrorists, and war criminals.  No doubt ICNA would deny these allegations.  It’s bad enough that politicians, bureaucrats and judges would have the power to censor speech they disagree with.  But censorship becomes even worse when inquisitors purport to know the true meaning and intent of a bus ad, based not on the ad itself, but on Google searches conducted by City employees two years after the removal of the ad.

“One could argue that, as a forum for the free expression of ideas, the outside of a public transit bus should be less free than a public sidewalk.  The Supreme Court may one day clarify its 2009 decision to strike down Vancouver’s ban on political ads.  But in the interim, it’s disappointing to see a politician, a bureaucrat, and then a judge acting in unison to censor an ad they disagree with,” stated Justice Centre president John Carpay.

This decision has not been appealed.

Edmonton v. Smeding

The Justice Centre has secured a victory for the rights of an Edmonton man to express his opinions peacefully on a public sidewalk.

On the evening of May 20, 2016 Nehemia Smeding was peacefully expressing his opinions on a street corner in Edmonton, using a small amplifier, when he was ticketed by the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) for “causing noise that disturbs peace to another” in violation of a bylaw.

EPS officers explained to Nehemia that they were ticketing him because they received a complaint, not because the officers themselves thought Nehemia was too loud.  When Nehemia asked the officers their thoughts on the loudness of his speaking, the officers stated that Nehemia’s volume was no greater than that of the vehicle traffic.  The officers also stated that they did not hear Nehemia while in the store across the street.  Yet these same EPS officers were responding to a complaint from an employee of a store across the street, who claimed that he could hear the “hollering speech [of Mr. Smeding] echoing throughout the store.” The complainant specifically requested the EPS to ticket Nehemia for “disturbing the peace of others.”

Nehemia had been expressing his opinions peacefully at the same street corner for several months prior. Across the street from Nehemia, a guitar player typically played his electric guitar with the use of an amplifier while Nehemia was speaking. Prior to receiving the ticket, Nehemia had been told by EPS officers that the guitar player was much louder than Nehemia’s speech. The guitar player had been playing his electric guitar at the time Nehemia was ticketed.

Edmonton police are obviously responding to complaints about the content of Nehemia’s speech, not its volume.  The Justice Centre fully supports the existence of noise by-laws, and their enforcement by police.  But using noise-bylaws to silence speech that is not loud but merely unpopular is an abuse of government power that must be challenged and checked.

The Justice Centre took on Nehemia’s case, fully prepared for a long court fight if necessary, to protect the free expression rights of all Canadians. A trial date was set for March 31, 2017. On January 9, 2017, the Crown agreed to drop its charges against Nehemia.

Following intervention from the Justice Centre, the Crown has now stayed three separate charges laid by EPS against citizens for peacefully expression their opinions in public. The Justice Centre has written a letter to the Chief of Edmonton’s Police Service about the issuance of these tickets, and the current practice of Edmonton police to silence Canadians who wish to express their views peacefully on a public sidewalk.

A response from EPS is pending.

Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada

On July 2, 2015, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice upheld the decision of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) to refuse to recognize the law program of Trinity Western University (TWU), a private Evangelical Christian university in Langley, B.C.  TWU has appealed.

The Justice Centre intervened in this court action, in support of Charter section 2(d) right to freedom of association, including the right of every charity, ethnic and cultural association, sports club, temple, church, and political group to establish its own rules and membership requirements.

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has approved the law program of TWU as meeting academic and professional standards.  The LSUC admits there is nothing wrong with TWU’s law program, but claim that TWU’s Community Covenant discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community.  The Community Covenant prohibits numerous legal activities such as vulgar or obscene language, drunkenness, viewing pornography, gossip, and sexual activity outside of the marriage of one man and one woman.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled against Trinity Western University on June 29, 2016.

Brandon University Students for Life v. Brandon University Students’ Union

Brandon University Students for Life is a campus student group at Brandon University focused on generating debate and discussion on campus regarding euthanasia, abortion, suicide and other life issues.  Students for Life has been active on campus since 2012, when it first sought student group status from the Brandon University Students’ Union (“BUSU”).  BUSU initially denied recognition to Students for Life, but after receiving a warning letter from the Justice Centre, BUSU changed its position and granted student group status to Students for Life in September of 2013.  Since then, Students for Life has conducted numerous peaceful events on campus to engage with fellow students.

However, in November 2015, BUSU revoked Students for Life’s student group status, without informing the Students for Life of its intentions to do so, and without providing any opportunity for Students for Life to defend itself.  BUSU further failed to inform Students for Life that its student group status had been revoked.

Students for Life did not learn that its student group status had been previously revoked until January 2016, when its communications director Andrew Madill attempted to book space in the Mingling Area of the Student Union Centre.  BUSU informed Mr. Madill that Students for Life no longer had student group status, and was therefore ineligible to book space in the Mingling Area, a prime location for student groups to engage their fellow students.

BUSU has attempted to justify revoking Students for Life’s student group status on the following grounds:

  • its message has made some students feel “uncomfortable” and “intimidated”;
  • it was affiliated with a Canadian pro-life group that BUSU “had issues with”;
  • its beliefs did not align with the Canadian Federation of Students’ official pro-choice stance; and
  • it was redundant, because the issues of suicide and abortion are already being addressed by the LGBTQ Collective and the Women’s Collective.

In February 2016, BUSU told Students for Life that:

  • it might be able to regain its student group status if it “changed [its] views;”
  • it “can’t really talk about personal issues;” and
  • it cannot “put [its] views out to a larger body.”

The removal of its student group status means that Students for Life can no longer book meeting rooms from either BUSU or Brandon University, unless its pays booking fees that no other student groups are required to pay.  Further, Students for Life no longer has access to numerous other benefits attached to student group status.  Yet, Students for Life’s president Catherine Dubois and other members must still pay mandatory fees to BUSU.

The Justice Centre filed a court application on behalf of Students for Life against BUSU in July of 2016. In the court application, Students for Life seeks a Court Order that its student group status be reinstated, and that BUSU be prohibited from further illegal discrimination.

In her sworn affidavit, filed with the Court, Catherine Dubois states:

“As members and executives of Students for Life and students of Brandon University, we feel that BUSU is excluding us from the Brandon University community.  We desire to associate as a campus club, and to express our views peacefully, but the BUSU’s obstruction and suppression of our views and our expression, including BUSU’s revocation of our student group recognition, have significantly diminished our ability to do so.  We feel marginalized, censored and discriminated against by BUSU simply because we want to host events, share our views, and have discussions about life and death issues such as abortion and physician-assisted suicide.”

The court action was settled on August 24, 2016.  BUSU agreed in writing to reverse its 2015 decision revoking Students for Life’s student group status, and to recognize Students for Life an official student group in the 2016-2017 school year.

Trinity Western University v. Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society

The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society (NSBS) has refused to recognize  the law program of Trinity Western University (TWU), a private Evangelical Christian university in Langley, B.C.  The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has approved the law program of TWU as meeting academic and professional standards.  The NSBS does not allege that there is anything wrong with TWU’s law program, but claims that TWU’s Community Covenant discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community.  The Community Covenant prohibits numerous legal activities such as vulgar or obscene language, drunkenness, viewing pornography, gossip, and sexual activity outside of the marriage of one man and one woman.

The Justice Centre previously intervened in this case at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in December of 2014, to argue for the Charter section 2(d) right to freedom of association, including the right of every charity, ethnic and cultural association, sports club, temple, church, and political group to establish its own rules and membership requirements.  On January 28, 2015, Justice James Campbell of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia ruled against the NSBS, stating “The Charter is not a blueprint for moral conformity. Its purpose is to protect the citizen from the power of the state, not to enforce compliance by citizens or private institutions with the moral judgments of the state.”

On July 26, 2016, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal upheld the ruling of the Supreme Court, protecting freedom for Trinity Western, its graduates, and all Canadians. The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society has stated it will not appeal this Court of Appeal decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Calgary v. Reicher

In December 2015, Peter Reicher was standing by the entrance to a Calgary CTrain station handing out postcards which invited people to attend his church’s free New Year’s concert. Despite the fact that Mr. Reicher was not impeding pedestrian flow or causing any problems, he was ordered to stop by a Calgary Transit officer.  The officer told him that he was not allowed to distribute postcards there and ordered him to move across the street.

Mr. Reicher complied and crossed to the other side of the road which parallels the train tracks, and continued handing out postcards on the pedestrian overpass that links the sidewalk to the CTrain station.  A short while later, Mr. Reicher was again ordered to stop, this time by two Transit officers, who issued him a $250 ticket for violating a Calgary bylaw that prohibits passing out written materials without the prior approval of a city official.

Believing that his freedom of expression had been violated, Mr. Reicher contacted the Justice Centre.  The requirement to receive prior permission before handing out literature was found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Saumur v City of Quebec, [1953] 2 SCR 299.  There, Justice Locke stated that “the true purpose of the by-law is not to regulate traffic in the streets but to impose a censorship on the written expression of religious views and their dissemina­tion, a constitutional right of all of the people of Canada….”

The Justice Centre encouraged Mr. Reicher to assert his freedom of expression and provided him with guidance and advice in navigating the initial steps in the proceedings.  Shortly after City prosecutors became aware that a Charter defense would be raised, they informed Mr. Reicher that they would be withdrawing the charge for violating the bylaw.

BC Civil Liberties Association v. University of Victoria

JCCF intervened in the B.C. Court of Appeal, on behalf of campus free speech rights, in the case of BC Civil Liberties Association v. University of Victoria.

This case arose in 2013, when the U-Vic pro-life student club Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) was granted approval by the university administration to conduct a small, peaceful demonstration on campus, involving students holding pro-life signs, handing out pamphlets, and engaging fellow students in conversation.  The day prior to this YPY event, club president Cam Cote received a call from the University administration informing him that approval had been withdrawn, such that YPY could not proceed with expressing its opinions on campus.

This 11th-hour reversal was the result of opposition from the University of Victoria Student Society (UVSS).  The student union’s complaints to the University administration boil down to complaints about the content of YPY’s beliefs and expression. There were no complaints of any YPY member having engaged in misconduct, inappropriate behaviour, or violating university rules and policies.  The complaint was directed purely at YPY’s message and opinions.

Prior to 2013, the student union (UVSS) had a long track record of censoring YPY. The tactics used by UVSS have included denying or removing club status from YPY; withholding funding from YPY (while funding all other campus groups); preventing YPY from advertising its events; and filing complaints against YPY for “harassment” based solely on YPY’s beliefs and expression (and not based on any harassing behaviour or misconduct on the part of YPY members).

The censorship methods of UVSS are, unfortunately, used by many student unions, from Victoria, BC to St. John’s, Newfoundland.  What is arguably worse in this case is that the U-Vic administration abdicated its own responsibility to uphold free speech rights on campus, and instead chose to follow the dictates of the student union

In support of free expression rights, the BC Civil Liberties Association and YPY president Cam Cote took the University of Victoria to court. They lost in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, which ruled that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply to public universities, and that the university’s decision fell within its “autonomous operational decision-making”.  Cam Cote and the BC Civil Liberties Association are now appealing before the BC Court of Appeal.  As an intervener is the appeal, JCCF will argue that the University of Victoria’s decision was unreasonable, and that the University does not have unfettered discretion to censor the peaceful expression of opinion on campus, even if the University is not a “government” body and not subject to the Charter. The JCCF will argue that U-Vic is a public body, subject to administrative law principles, including the requirement to give great weight to the free expression rights of all students, and all opinions.

The BC Court of Appeal heard oral argument on February 4 and 5, 2016, and rendered its decision on April 18, 2016. The Court of Appeal dismissed the students’ argument that the Charter applies to public universities, ruling that public, taxpayer-funded universities are not government entities, and are not implementing government programs.  However, the Court has left the door wide open to accepting, in future court cases, that universities are bound by principles of administrative law, which require them to treat all students equally without discriminating on the basis of students’ beliefs.

Edmonton v. Warren

On a Friday evening in July, 2015, Warren, age 53, was peacefully expressing his views on an Edmonton street corner when a police officer stopped him and issued him a ticket for “disturb[ing] the peace of another individual.”

A woman had filed a complaint against the expression, claiming it was loud and specifically complaining about its religious contents.  She stated that other people had complained to her that the expression was “hate speech.”  In the police report, the officer claims that police had been previously warned Warren that his speech was “offending” others.

Warren refused to plead guilty and pay a fine for peacefully sharing his religious beliefs in public, and faced a trial set for February 26, 2016.

In January 2016, the Justice Centre was made aware of the charge against Warren and immediately set about to defend him and the right of all Canadians to freely and publicly express their beliefs and opinions, even when those beliefs and opinions offend others.

By initiating disclosure requests, the Justice Centre confirmed that the charge had been made against Warren on the basis that others had found the speech “offensive”.  The state owes a duty to protect offensive and unpopular speech, not to sanction it.

Following the disclosure of the additional information, on February 12, 2016, the City of Edmonton agreed to withdraw the charge against Warren.

The Justice Centre fully supports the existence of noise by-laws, and their enforcement by police.  But using noise-bylaws to silence speech that is not loud but merely unpopular is an abuse of government power that must be challenged and checked.

Following intervention from the Justice Centre, the Crown has now stayed three separate charges laid by EPS against citizens for peacefully expression their opinions in public. The Justice Centre has written a letter to the Chief of Edmonton’s Police Service about the issuance of these tickets, and the current practice of Edmonton police to silence Canadians who wish to express their views peacefully on a public sidewalk.

A response from EPS is pending.

Allen v. Alberta

The Justice Centre sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada from the Alberta Court of Appeal decision in Allen v. Alberta, a constitutional challenge to the government’s health care monopoly and its painful waiting lists.  The Alberta Court of Appeal was unanimous in rejecting the Charter challenge of Darcy Allen, who argued that access to a waiting list is not access to health care.  Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada has been denied.

The Court ignored the evidence that many patients in Alberta are on waiting lists for surgery, and many of those patients, like Darcy Allen, suffer severe pain for years.  This evidence was substantially similar to the evidence before the Supreme Court of Canada in the Chaoulli decision, which struck down Quebec’s ban on private health insurance.

Dr. Darcy Allen practiced as a dentist in Okotoks, Alberta, until severe and continuous back pain forced him to stop working.  Dr. Allen suffered in pain for years on waiting lists in the government’s health care monopoly until he finally added another mortgage to his house to pay for the medically necessary surgery in Montana.

Dr. Allen sought to extend to Alberta the 2005 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Chaoulli v. Quebec, which held that “access to a waiting list is not access to health care.”  In Chaoulli, the Supreme Court noted that painful and sometimes deadly waiting lists for patients, in combination with laws that effectively prohibit access to basic medical services outside the government’s monopoly, violate the Charter rights to life and security of the person.

Nicholas Mcleod v. Mount Royal University

From 2013 to 2015, the JCCF represented Nicholas McLeod in his claim against Mount Royal University (“MRU”) in Calgary.  In February 2013, Nicholas was peacefully distributing pro-life literature in a building on campus when confronted by MRU security guard Jeff Beddome, who ordered Nicholas to stop immediately, because Beddome considered the literature to be “offensive.”  Nicholas initially refused to stop distributing his pamphlets, but then agreed to leave on condition that he could retrieve his jacket from a locker, as it was a very cold winter evening.  Beddome and other security guards tried to force Nicholas to leave the building without permitting him to retrieve his jacket, which was in a nearby locker.  The security guards assaulted Nicholas, forced him to the ground, hand-cuffed him, and confined him to a small room for several hours, with his hands still cuffed painfully behind his back.  Nicholas had video-recorded the incident on his cell phone, but one of the MRU guards removed the SD memory card from Nicholas’ cell phone.  That guard was later charged with theft, and admitted in court to having taken this evidence.

On behalf of Nicholas, the JCCF requested an apology from MRU, appropriate compensation for physical and psychological suffering endured by Nicholas, and revisions to campus security policies and training.  MRU rejected this proposal in its entirety, making court action necessary.

In 2015, the court action settled without continuing further to trial.  MRU president Dr. David Docherty apologized to Nicholas for the behaviour of MRU security guards, their unnecessary use of force, the unlawful detention, and the violation of Charter rights.  In his letter of apology, Dr. Docherty stated that “supplemental training will be conducted to ensure that community officers understand the interaction between the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and their duties in maintaining a safe campus environment.”

Cameron Wilson et al. v. University of Calgary

Since 2006, University of Calgary pro-life students have set up a controversial display on campus numerous times, usually four days per year (two days in the spring and two days in the fall).  In 2006 and 2007, the University of Calgary (U of C) posted its own signs near the display, stating that this expression was protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In March of 2008, the U of C began demanding – on threat of expulsion – that the students set up their display with the signs facing inwards, to hide the signs entirely from the view of people passing by.  No other group or club on campus was subjected to this demand, and the U of C had not objected to gory, graphic and disturbing images used by other groups (e.g. photo of head having gone through a windshield, displayed by pro-seatbelt group; graphic photos of torture perpetrated by the Chinese communist government against adherents of the Falun Gong religion).  The students therefore continued to set up their display with signs facing outwards, as they had already been doing for the previous two years.

 In 2009, the U of C tried unsuccessfully to have the pro-life students found guilty of trespassing on their own campus.  The Crown Prosecutors’ office withdrew the charges because the students were not violating any University rules, regulations, or policies.

 In 2010, the U of C found seven students guilty of non-academic misconduct for having continued to set up their display with signs facing outwards.  In 2011, the Board of Governors of the U of C rejected the students’ appeal and affirmed this verdict of guilty.  The students challenged this decision in a court action seeking judicial review, commenced in 2011, and were represented by the JCCF.

In April of 2014, in Wilson v. University of Calgary, the Court set aside the Board of Governors decision as being unreasonable and lacking “justification, transparency and intelligibility.”  The Court stated that the Board of Governors had failed to balance the students’ free expression rights with other interests, and did not take into account “the nature and purpose of a university as a forum for the expression of differing views”.  The Board of Governors then reversed its position. The charges of non-academic misconduct were quashed, and removed from the students’ files.

R v. Booyink

In 1991, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a very clear judgment in support of free expression in the public areas of airports, in Committee for the Commonwealth of Canada v. Canada, [1991] 1 SCR 139.  The Court reiterated that speech cannot be censored just because some people may find it offensive.  In particular, the Court held that peaceful expression of opinion is permitted in the public areas of airports, which are owned by government.  All members of the public (not just travelling passengers with tickets) have access to these public, government-owned areas, and are free to express their opinion peacefully in public spaces.

In spite of the Court’s ruling in Commonwealth, the Calgary Airport Authority charged eight peaceful protesters with trespassing in October 2011, claiming that the airport is private property (all while admitting that the airport is owned by government, and that the Calgary Airport is a tenant).  The JCCF defended the protesters’ free expression rights in the Provincial Court of Alberta.  On July 15, 2013, the Court acquitted the protesters of the trespassing charges, in R. v. Booyink.  Judge Allan Fradsham noted that the protesters were peaceful and well-behaved, and did not interfere with any of the airport’s operations.  He upheld their right to express their opinions in the public sections of the Calgary International Airport, based on the 1991 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Commonwealth.