EDMONTON: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (jccf.ca) expressed disappointment in an Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruling against freedom of expression in a case involving bus ads against “honour killings”. The decision by Justice John Gill in American Freedom Defence Initiative v. City of Edmonton was released on October 4.
In October 2013, Edmonton Transit Services (ETS) ran — and then pulled — bus ads showing photos of Aqsa Parvez and six other women. The ad stated, “Muslim Girls Honor Killed By Their Families,” and continued, “Is your family threatening you? Is there a fatwa on your head? We can help: go to FightforFreedom.us.” Edmonton Transit pulled the ads after (then) Councillor Amarjeet Sohi phoned the manager of Edmonton Transit to complain about the ads.
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 a means to restore 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.
After Councillor Sohi complained, the (then) manager of Edmonton Transit ordered the ads pulled. He did so without seeing the ad. The advertising contract itself was between the non-profit American Freedom Defense Initiative (“AFDI”) and Pattison Outdoor Advertising Group, the latter of which contracted separately at the time to handle ETS’ advertising. AFDI defends freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, individual rights, and the equality of all people before the law.
“This is a disappointing set-back for freedom of expression in Canada,” stated Calgary lawyer and president of the Justice Centre, John Carpay.