RELEASE – Canadian Transportation Agency warned to cease censorship of air passenger rights advocate

Posted on Sep 14, 2017 in Justice Update, Latest Updates, News Releases

CALGARY: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca) has sent a warning letter to the Canadian Transportation Agency (“CTA”) which blocked and removed posts of an air passenger rights advocate from its public Facebook page.  In its letter, the Justice Centre requests that the Agency cease its unconstitutional censorship and change its Use of Social Media policy to properly respect Charter-protected freedom of expression.

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.

In its letter, the Justice Centre 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 “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.”

“CTA has created a public Facebook page and invited the public to express their opinions and perspectives there,” explained Justice Centre president John Carpay.  “Clearly, the CTA Facebook page is a proper forum for public expression regarding the CTA, and expression there is protected under section 2(b) of the Charter,” continued Carpay.