On threat of legal action, City of Salmon Arm reverses policy banning pro-life ads on bus benches

SALMON ARM, BC:  The Justice Centre is pleased to announce that after threat of legal action, the City of Salmon Arm has reversed its policy which permitted only commercial advertisements on bus benches, while prohibiting all other displays, such as political advertising.

Hildegard Krieg is a 12-year resident of Salmon Arm and the President of the Shuswap Pro-Life Society. For the past 14 years, the pro-life group has been advertising on Salmon Arm bus benches to promote public awareness of its views on the sanctity of life.

However, in 2021, Salmon Arm implemented a policy to permit only “commercial advertising”. This led to the City cancelling and removing the pro-life advertisement of Ms. Krieg and the Shuswap Pro-Life Society on April 2, 2022. Salmon Arm further refused Ms. Krieg’s request that it comply with the Charter and allow her to continue advertising.

On April 29, 2022, Marty Moore, a Justice Centre lawyer, sent a letter to the City of Salmon Arm on behalf of Ms. Krieg and the Shuswap Pro-Life Society. The letter noted that the “Supreme Court of Canada has already held that government policies permitting commercial but not political advertising on transit property are unjustifiable limits on freedom of expression.” The letter warned that in the event the City refused to rescind its policy and allow the pro-life group to advertise on City bus benches, the City would face a legal challenge.

On June 20, 2022, Salmon Arm responded, stating: “The City has determined that it will not be enforcing the aspect of the Transit Bus Benches Advertising Agreement that requires advertising on the bus benches to be ‘commercial advertising’.”

Further, on June 21, 2022, the City accepted Ms. Krieg’s request to reinstate Shuswap Pro-Life Society’s advertisements.

“Freedom of expression in Canada is not limited to commercial expression,” says Marty Moore, counsel for Ms. Krieg and the Shuswap Pro-Life Society. “Citizens have the right to express their political and moral opinions publicly, and governments should respect that right without citizens having to resort to legal demands. The Justice Centre is dedicated to ensuring that governments in Canada, including municipal governments, respect the Charter rights of their citizens.”