NEWS RELEASE: Prince Albert, SK sued over censorship of pro-life flag

Posted on Nov 8, 2017 in Justice Update, Latest Updates, News Releases

PRINCE ALBERT, SK: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca) has filed a court application against the City of Prince Albert, seeking a reversal of the City’s rejection of the Prince Albert Right to Life Association’s (“PARLA”) application to continue with its annual raising of a pro-life flag.

PARLA is a non-profit organization, comprised of Prince Albert and area residents, which seeks to promote the sanctity of life at all stages of development.  PARLA’s work includes hosting Pro-Life events such as “Celebrate Life Week” and “Life Chain”, as well as other activities, such as providing aid to women and families with unplanned pregnancies.

The City maintains a courtesy flag pole in Memorial Square at City Hall and permits groups or organizations to fly the flag “to help increase public awareness of their programs and activities.”  The City of Prince Albert regularly grants applications to use the courtesy flag pole, and issues proclamations in support of various causes, including Falun Dafa, hunger awareness, naturopathic medicine, national public works, paramedics services, motorcycle awareness, occupational health and safety, LGBT Pride, gender diversity, transgenderism, literacy, seniors and Saskatchewan Ukrainians.

As explained in the filed affidavit of Valerie Hettrick, PARLA has been permitted to raise a flag on the City’s courtesy flag pole for “Celebrate Life Week” for the past 20 years.  Since 2007, PARLA has flown the same pink and white flag with a logo of “Umbert the Unborn”, a cartoon fetus. The phrases “Celebrate Life Week” and “Please Let Me Live” also appear on the flag.

However, on or around May 4, 2017, PARLA was informed by Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne that their flag could not be raised as it was not a “national flag” or “nationally recognized flag”.  The Mayor stated that Celebrate Life Week would still be proclaimed.

PARLA sent a letter to the Mayor, requesting that he clarify in writing the requirement for a “national” flag and specify what bylaw or policy that requirement was based on.  PARLA never received a response to its letter.

The Mayor later informed the media that PARLA’s flag, used since 2007, would never again fly at City Hall, but that he would be open to a different pro-life flag.

“The City of Prince Albert is making decisions about public permits based on improper and arbitrary criteria. This is contrary to natural justice and a violation of this association’s freedom of expression rights as guaranteed by the Charter,” stated lawyer and Justice Centre president John Carpay, which is defending PARLA’s free expression rights.

The Justice Centre’s court application, filed on November 6, seeks judicial review of the City’s decision to deny PARLA’s application to raise their flag, and a declaration that the decision is “arbitrary, unreasonable and contrary to the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness.”

The court application further seeks a declaration that the decision to deny a flag raising permit violates sections 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Finally, the application seeks a court order to permit PARLA to raise their flag on the City’s courtesy pole.