Out of Court Victories

Click here to see our active cases

Click here to see our concluded cases

City of Calgary Withdraws Ticket Issued to Levi Almond

The Justice Centre is pleased that the City of Calgary has withdrawn a ticket issued to Levi Almond, who was peacefully exercising his freedom of expression near an LRT station.

On May 8, 2019, a group of like-minded individuals were peacefully expressing their Christian beliefs on a public walkway near the Brentwood LRT station. Some members of the group only spoke with passersby, while others handed out pamphlets that communicate Christian messages.
Calgary Transit received complaints from individuals who claimed that members of the group were “harassing” transit users.  Calgary Transit officials came to the Brentwood station in response. Incorrectly believing members of the group had been there the day before and had been warned, the officials issued a ticket to Mr. Almond and others for distributing printed material without the consent of the Calgary Transit Director. The officials cited Calgary City Bylaw 4M81 s. 14(11), which states:

(11) (a) No person other than an employee of Calgary Transit shall distribute, sell or offer for sale any newspaper, printed matter or any other kind of merchandise whatsoever on a transit vehicle or transit property without being in possession of the consent in writing of the Director, Calgary Transit. 

The Justice Centre provided pro bono legal representation to Mr. Almond in defence of his Charter freedom of expression, which decisively protects Mr. Almond’s ability to peacefully express religious beliefs on public, government-owned property.

The Justice Centre committed to challenging both Mr. Almond’s ticket and the constitutional validity of the Bylaw in court.  In a free society, the government does not require citizens to obtain the prior approval of government officials of the contents of literature that citizens want to distribute.  Rather, citizens can say and write what they choose to, without prior approval.

Nearly identical bylaws have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada.  For example, the 1950s case of Saumur v. Quebec involved a municipal bylaw that required citizens to obtain the permission of the chief of police prior to distributing literature.  This Quebec City bylaw targeted Jehovah’s Witnesses, and was struck down by the Court. More recently, in the case of Committee for the Commonwealth of Canada v. Canada, the Supreme Court stated:

If members of the public had no right whatsoever to distribute leaflets or engage in other expressive activity on government-owned property (except with permission), then there would be little if any opportunity to exercise their rights of freedom of expression. Only those with enough wealth to own land, or mass media facilities (whose ownership is largely concentrated), would be able to engage in free expression. This would subvert achievement of the Charter’s basic purpose as identified by this Court, i.e., the free exchange of ideas, open debate of public affairs, the effective working of democratic institutions and the pursuit of knowledge and truth. 

This was an unjustifiable limitation of Mr. Almond’s freedom of expression, to be prohibited from distributing written material without the consent of the Director of Calgary Transit. It was also a limitation of his freedom of religion.

The City withdrew its ticket against Mr. Almond in July.

We are pleased that the City of Calgary—eventually—did the right thing by reversing course as the Charter requires them to.

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.

Gabor Lukacs v. Canadian Transportation Agency

The Justice Centre has been providing ongoing representation to air passenger rights advocate Dr. Gabor Lukacs, whose postings were being removed and/or hidden from the Canadian Transportation Agency’s (CTA’s) Facebook page.

The Justice Centre first became aware of the CTA censoring Dr. Lukacs’ postings in September 2017, and sent a warning letter to the Agency on September 13 requesting that the Agency cease its unconstitutional censorship and change its Use of Social Media policy to properly respect Charter-protected freedom of expression.

The Justice Centre’s letter explains that the CTA’s censorship of Dr. Lukacs is unlawful, as the CTA is a government body and is required to respect freedom of expression, guaranteed under section 2(b) of the Charter. CTA’s Use of Social Media policy violates section 2(b) of the Charter by prohibiting, for example, comments that include “serious … accusations”, that are “offensive”, “irrelevant” or that do not “add to the normal flow of the discussion.”  Further the Justice Centre warns that “[s]hould CTA choose rather to continue to violate Dr. Lukacs’ constitutional freedom, we will have no alternative but to pursue further steps to defend our client’s rights.”

On September 22, 2017, CTA’s Senior General Counsel responded to the Justice Centre’s letter, indicating that CTA was reviewing its policy and had not removed any posts since August 1.

However, when Dr. Lukacs posted on the CTA Facebook page, his post was immediately “hidden” so as not to be visible to others on the CTA Facebook.

On September 28, 2017, the Justice Centre emailed CTA, warning CTA that should CTA continue to violate Dr. Lukacs’ constitutional freedom, it would have no alternative but to pursue further steps to defend Dr. Lukacs’ rights:

Dear Ms. Barker, 

We have received your letter dated September 22, 2017, along with the letter of Scott Streiner to BCCLA dated September 15, 2017.

I have called and left voicemails with yourself and with Ms. Green. 

Without addressing each point in the letters, I raise two points to address with you: 

  1. You have indicated that CTA is reviewing its Use of Social Media Policy.  Is this policy review occurring within a specific and immediate timeline, and if so, please indicate that timeline? 
  2. CTA continues to censor Facebook posts, including two posts of Dr. Lukacs on September 22, 2017.  Will CTA cease its continued censorship of Dr. Lukacs?

Your immediate responses to these questions are requested.  

As stated in our September 13, 2017 letter, should CTA choose to continue to violate Dr. Lukacs’ constitutional freedom, we will have no alternative but to pursue further steps to defend our client’s rights.    


On October 2, 2017, CTA responded that the Agency was “not taking any action to block or delete posts of Dr. Lukacs.”

Hello Mr. Moore.

As Ms. Barker is away from the office, I am responding to your email to her dated September 29th wherein you pose two questions.

With respect to the Use of Social Media Policy, the Agency is looking at a number of factors and does not currently have a definitive timeline for the completion of the review.

With respect to your second question, the Agency is not taking any action to block or delete posts of Dr. Lukacs.

I note that you have left me a voicemail message.  Should you wish to speak with me perhaps we could set a time for tomorrow so that I can ensure that I am in my office.

Kind regards,

CTA ceased hiding or removing Dr. Lukacs’ posts, until February of 2018, when Dr. Lukacs reported that his postings to the CTA Facebook page were being hidden and marked as spam.  The Justice Centre promptly sent a warning letter to the CTA urging it to cease marking the postings of air passenger rights advocate Dr. Gabor Lukacs on its Facebook page as “spam”. This letter noted the previous commitment by CTA to cease censoring Dr. Lukacs’ postings.

In its letter, the Justice Centre requests that the CTA immediately reverse the marking of Dr. Lukacs’ post as “spam” and confirm in writing that it has reversed the censorship of Dr. Lukacs and that it not permit censorship on its Facebook page in the future.

“Should CTA choose rather to continue to violate Dr. Lukacs’ constitutional freedom, we will have no alternative but to pursue further steps to defend our client’s rights,” states the letter, which requests a response from CTA no later than 4:00 p.m. EST, Friday February 16, 2018.

Within 24 hours of sending this second warning letter, Dr. Lukacs’ postings once again became visible on the CTA’s Facebook page.

The Justice Centre continues to monitor this situation.

Case Background

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) is a government agency which uses social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to “encourage communications between [the public] and the Agency.”  The CTA repeatedly stated that it “is committed to an open and transparent dialogue with Canadians and welcomes a variety of perspectives and opinions.” Additionally, CTA has stated:

We believe that only by being open to challenge, debate and a free and honest exchange of ideas can we ensure that we are serving Canadians to the best of our ability.

On its Facebook page, CTA regularly posts public announcements about the Agency, tips on air travel and links to various webpages.  Members of the public frequently comment on CTA’s Facebook posts and occasionally CTA replies to those comments.  These communications are all public, allowing members of the public to interact with the Agency and with each other.

One would think that this Facebook page for a government agency would be a banner for transparent and accountable government and free speech (particularly in light of CTA’s statements).  Unfortunately, CTA’s recent actions have shattered that perception.

Dr. Gabor Lukacs and his Air Passenger Rights network are a group of citizens concerned that airlines frequently act with impunity in violation of air passenger rights and contract law. Lukacs feels that the Agency is not fulfilling its role to hold airlines accountable for improper or unlawful practices.

In May of 2017, Dr. Lukacs published an article “5 Reasons not to Trust the Canadian Transportation Agency”. The article listed five concerns with the CTA: 1) Institutional Bias, 2) Track Record of Lack of Enforcement, 3) Vice-Chair: Former Airline Lobbyist, 4) Manager of Enforcement: On First-Name Basis with Industry, and 5) Chief Dispute Officer: Lawyer Suspended for Misconduct. As he posted comments on the CTA’s Facebook page, Dr. Lukacs would occasionally post a link to the article.

On July 5, 2017, Dr. Lukacs received a private Facebook message from an unnamed individual purporting to be the CTA Social Media Coordinator using the Facebook name of “Cta Otc”.  The message told Dr. Lukacs that a number of his comments “directly targeted a number of Agency employees that draw their integrity into question.”  It further informed him that these posts violated CTA’s Use of Media policy, and that if they continued, “the Agency will block your future access to comment on our Facebook and Twitter channels.”

On July 19, 2017, Dr. Lukacs received another Facebook message from a person purporting to be the CTA Social Media Coordinator, telling him that his posting of “5 Reasons not to Trust the Canadian Transportation Agency” did not comply with their guidelines and was being removed.  The message did not explain what “personal information” or “unproven or inaccurate accusations” were made in the article.  The message warned Dr. Lukacs to “stop posting references to the article” or his account would be blocked.

On July 28, 2017, the CTA made the following public post on its Facebook page:

Comments with links to “5 Reasons Not To Trust The Agency” will be deleted as it is deemed to be in breach of our social media policy, as well as Facebook’s Community Guidelines, based on:
• It is repetitive or spam;
• Contains references to personal information;
• Puts forward serious, unproven or inaccurate accusations against individuals or organizations;
• Do not, in our opinion, add to the normal flow of the discussion.

CTA removed comments with links to, or that referred to, the article, and blocked Dr. Lukacs from posting on the CTA’s Facebook page.

Parkland Right to Life v. City of Yorkton

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires that municipal governments neither “favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non-belief”: Mouvement laïque québécois v Saguenay (City), 2015 SCC 16, at para. 72.  This fact was initially ignored by the Mayor of the City of Yorkton and its municipal officials in the case of Parkland Right to Life v. City of Yorkton.

On September 5, 2017, the President of Parkland Right to Life, Ted Deneschuk requested to appear before Yorkton City Council and provide oral submissions in support of an application to have the City proclaim the week of October 1-7, 2017 as “Right for Life” week.

On September 6, 2017, City officials informed Mr. Deneschuk that the City had decided to deny his request. In a letter sent to Mr. Deneschuk on September 6, the City stated that his request was denied because a “Right for Life” week proclamation would contravene section 3.B.ii of the City’s Proclamation Policy. The Policy states that proclamations will not be issued for “[matters] of political controversy, ideological, or religious beliefs or individual, [sic] conviction”.

Notwithstanding the Proclamation Policy, the City has made a practice of issuing proclamations for subject which could be viewed as controversial, ideological and religious subjects.  For example, the week of March 26-April 1, 2017 was proclaimed by the City as “Gender Diversity Week” and May 13, 2017 was proclaimed as “Falun Dafa Day”.

By mislabeling the proposed “Right for Life” week, and its associated pro-life viewpoint, as a “matter of political controversy, ideological, or religious beliefs or individual conviction”, but issuing proclamations regarding the belief in alternative genders (which remains deeply controversial in Canada) and Buddhist spiritual meditation, the City violated its duty of neutrality, acted in a biased and arbitrary fashion, and engaged in the very favouritism  prohibited by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Justice Centre made a formal request for the City of Yorkton to reverse its rejection of Parkland Right to Life’s application to have a “Right for Life” week.  The Justice Centre’s letter, which was sent to the City on Tuesday, October 10, states that, “[the] City of Yorkton’s discrimination against pro-life views and Mr. Deneschuk is unlawful.”  The letter requests that the City reverse its arbitrary and biased decision to deny Mr. Deneschuk’s application, and grant the application to proclaim a “Right for Life” week on the first available week.

On October 30, 2017, the City of Yorkton council voted to proclaim the week of October 29 – November 4, 2017 as “Respect for Life Week.” The vote passed with the Mayor and one councillor opposed.

Edmonton Pro-Life v Edmonton Northlands

Northlands and Edmonton-Pro-Life (EPL) reached an agreement that allowed EPL to have a booth at the annual Klondike Days Festival in July 2017. This decision came following productive discussions between the parties to find an amicable resolution.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca) made a formal request for Edmonton Northlands to reconsider its refusal to permit Edmonton Pro-Life (EPL) to have a booth at the 2017 K-Days festival, which takes place this year from July 21 – July 30.

EPL has had a booth at K-Days for over 15 consecutive years, and never had difficulty registering.  On January 6, 2017, a Northlands “Exhibit Sales Specialist” informed EPL that EPL would no longer be permitted to have a booth at K-Days.  Northlands claims to have adopted a “new policy” prohibiting “political and religious organizations” from having booths at K-Days. A JCCF lawyer called Northlands in February to ask for a copy of their policies, and his request was refused.  The Justice Centre has not found any policy that purports to prohibit political or religious groups.

K-Days is operated on property owned entirely by the City of Edmonton. Northlands receives the bulk of its funds from government, and numerous government representatives and employees are on the board of Northlands. The Justice Centre explains in its letter to Northlands that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to their decision to prevent the expression of EPL, and is an infringement of section 2(b) of the Charter.

Colette Schouten v. City of Calgary

Colette Schouten is a Calgary mother concerned about the lack of any laws in Canada protecting the unborn.  She wanted to raise awareness about abortion in Canada and sought to set up a public display, provided by the national awareness group We Need a Law.  The display consisted of 10,000 small pink and blue flags, and volunteers would be present to engage with passersby on the subject of pre-born human rights.
Ms. Schouten submitted an application to the City of Calgary on June 20, 2016, to have a display in the triangle green space of Eau Claire Park. 
On August 11, 2016, the City denied Ms. Schouten’s application, stating in an email that the City “places priority” on events with “a recreational, cultural, environmental or community wellness mandate”.   The City’s denial of Ms. Schouten’s event application was based on its Special Events Guidelines, which states, in part:
The City of Calgary places priority on requests for parks space for special events which are open to the public and which have a recreational, cultural, environmental or community wellness mandate. Private functions, commercial functions and/or events that are primarily religious or political in nature may be considered on a case by case basis. [emphasis added]
The Justice Centre sent a letter to the City of Calgary on August 19 explaining how freedom of expression applies in city parks and demanding that the City reverse its denial of Ms. Schouten’s application.  In response to the Justice Centre’s demand letter, the City reversed the denial and granted Ms. Schouten a permit to set up the display on the same date she originally sought and in the same location she originally desired.    On Saturday, September 10, Ms. Schouten and a large number of volunteers set up the display and communicated their message to the public without incident.

Mary Stanko v. St. Catharines Public Library Board

Canada’s public libraries serve a critical function in a free and democratic society: providing all members of the public, regardless of financial status, with access to information (whether it be for education, news or entertainment) on nearly all topics and from numerous views.  In recognition of the important public function they serve, our public libraries are mandated under provincial legislation, taxpayer funded, and, like all government entities, subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For the past 18 years, Mary Stanko has been publishing a community newsletter for seniors in the St. Catharines area.  The newsletter provides information on local events, historical sketches, and editorials, often written by Ms. Stanko herself.

The St. Catharines Public Library has pamphlet and newsletter stands designed for members of the public to share notices and materials of an educational or cultural nature.

Over the past 18 years, each issue of Ms. Stanko’s newsletter has been has been distributed and made available to the public through the newsletter stands in the various branches of the St. Catharines Public Library.

However, in the Spring of 2015, the St. Catharines Public Library refused to allow Ms. Stanko to place her Spring 2015 issue of the newsletter in their newsletter stands.  In the Spring 2015 issue, Ms. Stanko had written an editorial quoting the Charter and its recognition of the “Supremacy of God” while critiquing the abandonment of God in society.  For example she wrote:

Yet, why are we law-abiding citizens allowing these Apostates and Atheists, who are in the minority, to install their undemocratic rule of terror in which mention of HIS Name has become anathema in Public Governments, their arms length Commissions, Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons, Universities and some Secular Media?

. . .

How can our Highest Court debunk the above preamble to profess a theistic faith as “an interpretation of a freedom of conscience & religion that authorizes the state to consciously profess a theistic faith?”

Ms. Stanko appealed the rejection of the newsletter to the Library Board.  However, in December 2015, the Library Board upheld its rejection, stating that Ms. Stanko’s newsletter was not educational or cultural, and thus could not be placed in the newsletter stands.

In 2016, Ms. Stanko contacted the Justice Centre, which wrote a letter on her behalf to the Library Board, explaining how Ms. Stanko’s letter was both educational and cultural and outlining the Library’s duty as government not to censor materials based on the content of the views expressed.

After consulting with a lawyer, the Library Board reversed its prior decision and agreed to place the newsletter it had rejected in its newsletter stands.

Voices of the Nations v. Toronto

In October 2015, the City of Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square (YDS) Board of Management denied Voices Of The Nations (VOTN) its right to continue using Yonge-Dundas Square for its annual musical festival.

VOTN describes its mission as “to provide a venue and unite the various denominations, cultures and the outstanding talents within the Christian community” and “to embrace and celebrate the wonderful diversity in the city.”  Held the first weekend in August, this annual festival showcases the talents of numerous performing groups and artists from a broad cross-section of the Christian community.

Natalie Belman, the Manager of Events for Yonge-Dundas Square told VOTN that their festival had violated the YDS policy against “proselytizing”:

Well it doesn’t matter if it’s speaking or singing.  Either way, if you’re praising Jesus or “praise the Lord” and “there’s no God like Jehovah,” that type of thing, that’s proselytizing.

The Justice Centre sent a legal warning letter to the YDS Board, and later gave an oral presentation before it, explaining that the decision to ban VOTN violated freedom of religion and freedom of expression as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

At its meeting on December 11, 2015, the Board of Management responded by directing that YDS staff communicate with VOTN to work out a cooperative arrangement to permit VOTN’s Christian 2016 music festival to proceed in Yonge-Dundas Square.

In the discussions that followed, the Justice Centre asserted VOTN’s rights and freedom to have its 2016 festival as it desired.   Eventually, a cooperative arrangement and understanding was reached between YDS staff and VOTN that allows VOTN’s 2016 concert to take place in Yonge-Dundas Square and which respects VOTN’s freedom to express and share its religious beliefs.

On February 4, 2016, the YDS Board of Management reversed its decision to ban VOTN from Yonge-Dundas Square.  The Board directed that a permit be granted to VOTN to host its annual concert in Yonge-Dundas Square on August 6, 2016.

The YDS policies, including its policy against “proselytizing”, are currently under review.  The YDS Board has agreed to consider the Justice Centre’s submissions that the prohibition against “proselytizing” is unconstitutional as it undertakes its policy review.

“We are glad that YDS has reversed its decision and has recognized our freedom to have a Christian concert in Yonge-Dundas Square to praise Jesus and celebrate our Christian beliefs as we have done before,” said Paresh (Peter) Ruparelia, founder of VOTN.

“The YDS decision to permit VOTN to host its Christian concert in Yonge-Dundas Square affirms the freedom of all groups to use the public square and host events that express diverse viewpoints and beliefs,” stated Marty Moore, a Justice Centre lawyer who represented VOTN. “This freedom is a true and essential value in a free and democratic society.”

Staff Fellowship Group v. Red River College

In the summer of 2014, the Red River College (RRC) in Winnipeg, Manitoba abruptly cancelled the volunteer chaplaincy program which had been serving RRC students and faculty since 1995.  Further, while RRC permitted and promoted Aboriginal spiritual events on campus, RRC refused to permit other religious groups to hold meetings and events on campus.

These developments directly affected a group of RRC staff and faculty who, for the previous seven years, had met on campus each month for a time of fellowship and spiritual support.  When the Staff Fellowship Group requested permission to continue meeting on campus under the guidance of their volunteer chaplain, RRC refused, and cancelled the Group’s bookings for using a room.  The RRC directed this group to use an off-site “spiritual referral counselling service” rather than continuing to meet on campus monthly.

The staff fellowship group reached out to JCCF for help.  In October 2014, the JCCF sent a five-page letter to RRC’s Board of Governors, warning of RRC’s responsibility to respect the fundamental freedoms of religion, expression and association of staff members, as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  The JCCF also warned RRC that it was violating Manitoba’s Human Rights Code, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion.

In response to this letter, RRC gave the staff fellowship group permission to once again meet on campus each month, under the guidance of their volunteer chaplain.

This matter was resolved without court action becoming necessary.

Citizens v. City of Nanimo

In May 2014, Nanaimo’s City Councillors voted (almost unanimously) to cancel the “Leadercast” video conference, that had been approved to take place in city-owned facilities, and which included many high-profile speakers (e.g. South African Bishop Desmond Tutu; former U.S. First Lady Laura Bush).  The City had entered into a binding legal contract for the use of its facilities for Leadercast, and many people had paid registrations fee to attend this event.  The Councillors were upset that one of this conference’s sponsors was the fast-food company Chick-fil-A, whose owner Dan Cathy is opposed to same-sex marriage.  Mr. Cathy’s stance was denounced by some Councillors as hateful, bigoted and even “criminal.”  The councillors then passed a motion declaring that city-owned facilities no longer be rented out to individuals or groups who are “hateful” because they disagree with same-sex marriage.  Nanaimo Councillor Jim Kipp went as far as to condemn “strong Christians,” comparing them to the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram, responsible for kidnapping hundreds of Nigerian school girls and killing thousands of innocent civilians.  The event and the contract were cancelled on short notice, depriving those who had registered for Leadercast from participating in the event.

On June 23, 2014, JCCF president John Carpay joined Ezra Levant on Sun News Network’s The Source to challenge the City of Nanaimo for its shameful and intolerant decision.  There, John shared how the City’s decision violated the Charter and offered JCCF’s legal services to defend the Charter rights of Nanaimo residents. The legal and public pressure resulted in Nanaimo council repealing its motion on July 3, 2014, and apologizing to the organizers and residents who were offended by this action.

This matter was resolved without court action becoming necessary.

Trent Lifeline v. Trent Central Students Association

In January of 2013, the Trent Central Students Association (“TCSA”) refused to register Trent Lifeline as a campus club.  TCSA stated:

“campaigning for pro life [sic] or pro choice [sic] is not allowed on campus as well [sic] since there is so many opinions [sic] to this it can lead to a very exclusive group, while all the clubs at Trent University must be inclusive.  On campus we are not allow [sic] to have groups that take away rights or opinions of other people.  I cannot send you a policy right now as there is one working under way.”

Trent Lifeline contacted the JCCF for assistance.  After months of meetings and correspondence, including clear warnings to the TCSA from the JCCF that its actions were illegal, Trent Lifeline received its club status in December 2013, and can now operate on campus.

This matter was resolved without court action becoming necessary.

Kwantlen Student Association v. Free Expression on Campus

In December 2012, the Kwantlen Student Association (KSA) agreed, upon threat of legal action by JCCF, to register the campus pro-life club Protectores Vitae (Protectors of Life), as described further below.  However, in October 2013, the KSA introduced a new policy requiring that “any material displayed in the Association spaces should adhere to the principle of ‘safe space’ … to ensure an accessible environment in which every student feels comfortable, safe and able to get involved in all aspects of the organization [sic] free from intimidation or judgement”.

Under this provision, the KSA empowered itself to censor any speech on campus that, in its opinion, could make a student feel uncomfortable.  This policy would effectively prevent all campus groups from promoting any political, religious, cultural or moral perspective if the KSA’s elected representatives disagreed with it.  In November 2013, the JCCF sent a warning letter to the KSA, threatening legal action if the policy were used to discriminate against any student or student group on the basis of their views or opinions.

In January 2014, the KSA reversed its decision, amending its Club Procedures and stating:

Clubs are basically autonomous in their activities, provided that they adhere to the Constitution, Bylaws, Regulations, and Executive Procedures, of the Kwantlen Student Association (the “Rules”). The Kwantlen Student Association shall not intervene unless the Club acts in a way that is unlawful, contrary to the Rules, or contrary to the purpose of the Club.

This matter was resolved without court action becoming necessary.

JCCF v. University of Waterloo

The JCCF publicly challenged the president of the University of Waterloo, Dr. Feridun Hamdullahpur, to uphold free speech on campus when an invited speaker (MP Stephen Woodworth) had his March 2013 speaking engagement shut down by disruptive “protesters”, while campus security stood by and watched.  This was the second time in three years that the University of Waterloo failed to uphold the expression rights of an invited speaker, the other being columnist and author Christie Blatchford in 2010.  It appeared that Dr. Hamdullahpur had learned nothing from the 2010 incident, when Ms. Blatchford’s presentation was shut down by the physical disruption and obstruction of noisy, aggressive “protesters”, while campus security stood by and watched. The JCCF sent a letter to Dr. Hamdullahpur on March 13, urging him to uphold campus free speech rights for this speaker and to apologize for the failure of campus security to defend his rights. On March 15, 2013, the University issued a statement regretting the incident and pledging to work with students willing to re-invite Woodworth.

Stephen Woodworth returned to Waterloo campus on November 14, 2013, and his lecture was able to proceed without disruption, thanks in part to the large presence of campus security, and the requirement that attendees to the event be pre-listed for entry.

This matter was resolved without court action becoming necessary.

Students for a Culture of Life v. University of Manitoba Students’ Union

In October 2013, the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) was actively and publicly planning to ban the Students for a Culture of Life (SCL) club, because UMSU had received complaints from students who disagreed with the opinions and beliefs that SCL expressed.

UMSU accused SCL of “creating an unsafe environment for students” based not on any misbehaviour on the part of club members, but purely on the basis of the contents of the SCL’s display on campus.  The vote was scheduled for October 7, 2013.  The motion stated:

Whereas … inappropriate messaging regarding abortion is taking place on campus, creating an unsafe environment for students … Be it resolved that U-Manitoba Students for a Culture of Life be revoked of their student group status.

The proposed motion, if passed, would effectively silence SCL and preclude it from holding further events, activities or displays on campus.

The JCCF sent a stern legal warning letter to UMSU, prior to the October 7 vote.  The JCCF was ready, willing and able to take UMSU to court for trying to censor an unpopular viewpoint.  On October 7, the motion against SCL was defeated.

This matter was resolved without court action becoming necessary.

Queen’s Students for Liberty v. Queen’s University

Queen’s University approved the setting up of a free speech wall on campus from Tuesday April 2 through to Friday, April 5, 2013.  However, on the evening of Tuesday April 2, the free speech wall which had been erected by the student group Queen’s Students For Liberty (Queen’s SFL) was shut down by the University’s Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Arig Girgrah.

Campus security officers acted on the instructions of Ms. Girgrah, who told Queen’s SFL that the paper canvas on the wall was being removed due to “offensive content.”  Ms. Girgrah refused to provide any examples of what she considered “offensive”, and did not refer to any Queen’s University rules or policies that had been violated by Students For Liberty.

The free speech wall was set up again on Wednesday morning, but on Thursday April 4th, Queen’s University seized the free speech wall for a second time.  Campus security confiscated the entire wall (paper, as well as the wood structure) on orders from Queen’s Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Dr. Alan Harrison, the Queen’s Alma Mater Society (AMS) and the Society of Graduate & Professional Students.  Further, Queen’s University cancelled the remainder of the space booking for Queen’s SFL.

JCCF drew public attention to the actions of Queen’s University officials, resulting in several news articles and opinion pieces in campus, local and national media.  When Queen’s SFL raised a free speech wall again in October of 2013, the University did not interfere with the event.

This matter was resolved without court action becoming necessary.

Students for Life v. University of Lethbridge

In response to a display on campus set up by the University of Lethbridge Students for Life in October 2013, the University’s president, Dr. Mike Mahon, threatened that future displays would be censored by relegating them to out-of-the-way places.  On November 28, 2013, the JCCF wrote to Dr. Mahon explaining that it is illegal for universities to single out controversial or unpopular expression.  All campus clubs are legally entitled to the same opportunity to communicate their opinions to other students.  All student clubs have the same right to use prominent, well-travelled spaces on campus, without discrimination based on the content of the club’s opinions.  The six-page letter to Dr. Mahon is posted here and includes a summary of the facts and legal issues.  As a result, the University of Lethbridge changed its approach towards respecting and upholding campus free speech rights for its students.

This matter was resolved without court action becoming necessary.

Students for Life v. Brandon University Student Union

At the start of the 2012-13 school year, the Brandon University Student Union (BUSU) told the Students for Life club that they would not be welcome on campus.  According to BUSU, the issue of abortion and all women’s issues were covered by the Women’s Collective club.  BUSU also wanted to prevent “divisions” on campus.  BUSU further stated that if Students for Life was officially registered, it would need to comply with extreme restrictions that no other campus group faced: no handing out materials or pamphlets; no presence in the common areas of campus; and no recruiting at club day.

In spite of this declaration by BUSU, Students for Life still applied for registration as a campus club.  By the end of the school year, in April 2013, BUSU had still not granted Students for Life permission to exist and operate on campus.  Further, BUSU indicated that it would continue with this discrimination and censorship in the 2013-14 school year.

The JCCF sent a strongly-worded, five-page legal warning letter to BUSU, indicating that continued discrimination against Students for Life would result in a court application against BUSU.  The JCCF’s letter explained how and why Students for Life is legally entitled to form a campus club on par with all other campus clubs, regardless of the students’ opinions or beliefs.

In response to the JCCF’s letter, BUSU’s executive council voted in September 2013 to grant official club status to Students for Life for the 2013-2014 school year.

In December of 2013, JCCF received a letter from a member of Students for Life, Catherine Dubois, in which she stated:

Thanks to you, we have had three months of free speech on campus at Brandon University …  I don’t know if there will ever be a sufficient way to express my deep appreciation for all your hard work and dedication.

This matter was resolved without court action becoming necessary. But just a year after students at Brandon University in Manitoba regained the right to participate in student life again after having their student group status revoked by their student union, the student group Brandon University Students for Life (SFL) has faced renewed censorship and hostility from the Brandon University Student Union after the union refused to permit SFL to poster.

On October 17, 2017, SFL submitted a poster to BUSU in order to post it in the Knowles Douglas Student Union Centre.  The poster contains two images of developing fetuses, followed by an image of forceps, a tool used to perform abortions. The caption reads “Growing…Growing…Gone.”  The poster then states “Abortion Kills Children” and invites students to attend Students for Life’s next meeting.

On October 19, 2017, SFL received an email from Mohammed Agavi, Vice President External for BUSU, informing SFL that it could not post its posters in the KDC.

Mr. Agavi relied upon Policy #2016 which states that BUSU will not accept advertising that is “sexist, racist, homophobic, discriminatory or derogatory to any group of people.”  SFL’s poster is not “sexist, racist, homophobic, discriminatory or derogatory”.  Rather, Mr. Agavi states that SFL’s poster was deemed to be “triggering, offensive and aggressive to a large member [sic] of the student body”.  The Policy does not in fact prohibit expression deemed to be “triggering”, “offensive” or “aggressive”, terms with very subjective definitions.

BUSU’s hostility towards SFL dates back to 2012, when BUSU initially refused to grant club status to SFL.  After receiving a warning letter from the Justice Centre, BUSU changed its position and granted student group status to SFL in September 2013.  However, in November 2015, BUSU revoked SFL’s student group status without informing SFL until January 2016.  The reasons produced by BUSU for this decision were, inter alia, that SFL’s pro-life views made some students feel “uncomfortable” and “intimidated”. The Justice Centre filed a court application on behalf of SFL against BUSU for its unlawful decision to revoke SFL’s club status.

SFL student group President Stephanie Kehler expressed her disappointment with BUSU’s latest attempt to censor her group, stating:

We want our message about the seriousness of abortion to be heard  by the students of Brandon University. The students union has no right to control what the students should and should not be learning.  We are saddened by the actions that the students union has made against us, the very students they claim to support.

The Justice Centre wrote to BUSU to demand a reversal of their decision to prohibit SFL to poster, and to cease its repeated censorship of SFL.

SFU Lifelink v. Simon Fraser University

In early February, 2013, the Simon Fraser University (SFU) campus club Life Link booked space for an educational display, securing designated space on campus several weeks prior to the event.  Shortly before the scheduled event, SFU cancelled Life Link’s scheduled event, citing complaints about the display’s controversial content.  Copying the University of Calgary, SFU administrators said it might be “necessary” to set up the display with signs facing inwards, such that nobody walking by would be able to see the display.  The Justice Centre promptly sent a legal warning letter to SFU President Andrew Petter, warning SFU to uphold its reputation as a safe haven for free speech.  The club’s event was re-scheduled for April 10 and 11, and took place without any censorship on the part of SFU.

This matter was resolved without court action becoming necessary.

Protectores Vitae v. Kwantlen Student Association

The JCCF secured a victory for campus free speech at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C.  In the fall of 2012, the Kwantlen Student Association (KSA) denied first-year student Oliver Capko and other students the right to start a campus pro-life club (Protectores Vitae), on grounds that the student union was officially pro-choice, and therefore required all campus clubs to adhere to that position.  The JCCF issued a demand letter explaining why and how KSA’s actions were illegal, and warned of court action to secure the students’ freedom of expression and freedom of association.  The JCCF began preparing the court documents in late November.  On December 5, 2012, several days before the anticipated court filing date, the student union changed its mind and allowed Protectores Vitae (Protectors of Life) to become a campus club.  This matter was resolved before the planned court action was commenced.  The student club encountered no further difficulties.  However, in the fall of 2013, KSA made another attempt to censor free speech on campus (see account further above).

Lifeline v. University of British Columbia


The UBC campus club Lifeline has had to overcome many challenges since it tried to set up its first anti-abortion display on campus in 1999.  UBC demanded $10,000 per day for “security” for the club to set up its controversial display, refused to allow the display in a busy, well-travelled area of campus, and insisted on the right to dismantle the club’s display at any time.  All of these demands and conditions were imposed uniquely on Lifeline, and no other campus club.

The students managed to negotiate with UBC to set up only a very small display, in November 1999, which was attacked and vandalized by three leaders of the student union (Alma Mater Society).  With the help of BC civil liberties lawyer Craig Jones, who is pro-choice and also a passionate defender of free expression rights, Lifeline took the three vandals to court, as well as the Alma Mater Society (AMS), in respect of measures that the AMS had taken against Lifeline.  While largely successful, this court action did not ultimately determine or guarantee Lifeline’s free expression rights, in part because UBC had not been named as a party in the court action.

 UBC continued to impose restrictions on Lifeline that were not imposed on any other campus clubs.  For example, no other campus club was limited to setting up only one display per term, at only one location.  No other campus club was required to comply with limits on the number of signs, or size of signs.  Receiving only limited legal representation for most of the period from 1999 to 2011, Lifeline had no choice but to accept the “terms” imposed by UBC.

 UBC did not honour its express promise that Campus Security would maintain a 32-foot “buffer zone” next to Lifeline’s display.  The purpose of the “buffer zone” was to enable club members to engage in dialogue with other students.  Those opposed to Lifeline’s message had complete liberty to express their own opinions, but they would not be permitted to censor Lifeline’s message by blocking or obstructing its display, or by shutting down dialogue among students.  UBC made a commitment that Campus Security would uphold the rule of law on campus, and allow for the free exchange and debate of ideas, but this commitment was not honoured by UBC.

 On March of 2010, Lifeline’s small display was once again completely obstructed from view by a loud, disruptive mob of “protesters”, including UBC students as well as non-students.  Campus Security – and later the RCMP – stood by and watched while Lifeline’s free expression rights were completely negated through mob censorship.

 Later that same day, one member of this mob, UBC student Justine Spencer and president of Students for Reproductive Rights, boasted on Facebook about this successful censorship:

 “Thank you to everyone who came out today, the protest was a huge success!  All the pro-choice support has been heartwarming. Let’s keep it up as we make sure GAP doesn’t get here at all next year!”

 Justine and others have no interest in debate.  Instead, they seek to silence those who disagree with them. 

 Without legal representation, Lifeline had been facing bullying, intimidation, and mob censorship for more than a decade.  Lifeline contacted the JCCF for legal assistance, and planned its next display on campus for March of 2011, using the same campus event booking forms and procedures used by all clubs.

 On February 23, 2011, John Carpay wrote to Mark Crosbie, Associate Counsel to the University of British Columbia, explaining that Lifeline would no longer abide by discriminatory terms that were not imposed on any other campus club.

 Several letters went back and forth between Mr. Carpay and Mr. Crosbie, after which UBC took a radically different approach from previous years.  UBC no longer insisted on special restrictions on Lifeline’s expression on campus.  UBC also warned those who were planning the obstruction and mob censorship of Lifeline’s 2011 display that such conduct would not be tolerated.

 In the days prior to Lifeline’s planned event in March 2011, Lifeline president Ania Kasprzak informed UBC Campus Security of a Facebook post by Anna Warje, Vice-President of Students for Reproductive Rights, threatening disruption and obstruction of Lifeline’s planned event:

“UBC is requiring us (SRR) to stay 30 feet from the display and not block or impede the display in any way. Last year, UBC tried to make SRR admin responsible for outside parties blocking the display, but I am not taking that shit this year. There is nothing illegal about blocking that display, and only UBC students are susceptible to “university discipline.” So…if you’re not a UBC student, don’t even pay attention to this bullshit. Or if you’re a UBC student who doesn’t care about the university’s disapproval of your conduct. But SRR club members, please adhere to these conditions so Justine and I don’t get raked over the coals. :)”


In response, Chad Hyson, Executive Coordinator to UBC Vice-President (Students), wrote to the president of Students for Reproductive Rights as follows:

Hi Justine, I understand that you have applied for and received a booking from Classroom Services regarding this event.  I want to clarify some points for you and the members of your group.  The University is committed to the principle of freedom of speech.  This includes an expectation that both Lifeline and Students for Reproductive Rights will be able to express themselves without inappropriate interference from others.  Accordingly the University will expect both groups to respect the display of the other group.  This includes erecting any signage within your assigned space and at a minimum of 30 feet away from the other group’s display.  No restrictions on the dimensions of signage have been placed on either group.

The University will not condone placing signage in a manner designed to prevent the signage of the other group from being visible.  No physical interference with another group’s display or persons will be tolerated.  Similarly the University will not tolerate any attempts to impede pedestrian traffic, particularly to the other group’s display.  All activities should be carried out in a respectful manner and no attempts should be made to drown out or physically overwhelm speech by the other group.  Students groups, and all persons on campus, are expected to follow the directions of Campus Security or other University officials.

Lifeline has agreed to erect warning signs at the approaches to the display to inform pedestrians who may not wish to be exposed to their display.

The University will be monitoring the displays, and may choose to follow up any inappropriate behaviour pursuant to its student discipline procedures. [bold text added by JCCF]



 Lifeline’s event on March 10, 2011 was peaceful and successful.  On March 11, Lifeline president Ania Kasprzak wrote to Tom Carroll and Paul Wong of Campus Security as follows:

 Hi Tom and Paul, I’d like to thank you both again on behalf of Lifeline for standing by yesterday and ensuring our safety and freedom of expression.  GAP went exactly as we had hoped, and we’re pleased that students were able to engage and debate on such a controversial topic in a peaceful and protected environment.

 Tom Carroll, Operations Supervisor of UBC Campus Security, responded to Ania Kasprzak as follows:

Hi Ania, I would like to thank you on behalf of Paul Wong, myself and everyone from Campus Security for your kind email.  I would also like to thank you and all of your organizers for helping with making this a peaceful and successful event.


 On March 18, UBC wrote to John Carpay about the peaceful and successful March 10 event, noting that “prior to the event the University took steps to remind students of the University’s expectations regarding their conduct” (see Chad Hyson’s letter to Students for Reproductive Rights, above), and that “the University was prepared to intervene in the event of any inappropriate behaviour.”

 The approach adopted by UBC in March of 2011 serves as a positive model for the University of Alberta and other Canadian universities that condone mob censorship by failing to issue clear written warnings to those who are planning to engage in the intimidation, bullying, and silencing of opinions they disagree with.


Do you have a case? If your constitutional freedoms have been violated by government or government entities, complete this form and a member of our legal team will follow up about your case.