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Advertising Standards Canada contradicts itself with ruling on billboard

by | Oct 1, 2018

By We Need a Law

weneedalaw / Twitter

Ottawa, Ontario – A ruling against a billboard that state, “Canada has no abortion law,” calls into question Advertising Standards Canada (ASC)’s ability to make impartial decisions.

ASC, a self-regulating body that enforces the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, ruled on the billboard after complaints were submitted with encouragement from the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada – a pro-abortion activist organization.

“This is either a biased or an ignorant ruling seemingly made at the behest of those who disagree with our pro-life views,” said Tabitha Ewert, legal counsel for We Need a Law.

This ruling goes against ASC’s 2008 decision against another pro-life billboard that implied that abortion was legally permitted in Canada. In that case ASC stated, “The Canadian Government has not, through legislation or otherwise, declared that abortions were either legal or illegal.”

In their latest ruling they contradict this earlier ruling saying “binding Canadian law that permits abortion in Canada does, in fact, currently exist.”

“Which is it? You can’t reconcile the two rulings.” Ewert asked.

The contradictory nature of the rulings shows that it is not about the accuracy of the message, but about who is saying it.

“The irony is that pro-abortion activists often tout the fact that Canada has no abortion law, but now, when we are the ones saying it, they are using Ad Standards to censor our organization,” said Ewert.

Ad Standards suggested there are “regulations imposed by Canadian authorities,” but they did not provide any sources.

In fact, prior to putting up these billboards, a representative from We Need a Law called the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Ontario (CPSO) to clarify what abortion regulations they had in place. They were quick to point out that, “The CPSO doesn’t have a policy about abortion.” We received similar confirmation from the College in Nova Scotia.

When the billboards went up at the beginning of August, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada took to social media encouraging people to complain, whether they had seen the billboard or not, and gave them detailed instructions on how to submit complaints to ASC.

“This decision is one in a series of rulings over the years that seem to show a willingness to be used by abortion activists to censor pro-life organizations,” said Ewert.

We Need a Law entered into a contract with Pattison Outdoor to install over thirty billboards across Canada this summer. Polls indicate that up to 77% of Canadians are unaware that Canada has no abortion laws.

“We believe that truth in advertising is very important,” stressed Ewert. “That’s why we will be appealing this decision. The fact that ASC has been inconsistent in their rulings shows an organization heavily influenced by activist pressure rather than the neutral self-regulatory body they purport to be,” continued Ewert. “In the past they ruled against a pro-life ad for suggesting there was a law, and now they are ruling against our message because we are saying there is no law! We hope they will recognize their error and be willing to correct it.”

“Nothing has changed in the legal system regarding abortion in the last 10 years. Canada is still the only democracy in the world that has no protection for pre-born children at any point in a pregnancy.” pointed out Ewert. “This inconsistency is a sad reflection on the integrity of the organization relied on to ensure fair and accurate advertising in Canada. And it needs to be made right.”

We Need a Law will appeal the ruling from Ad Standards and await that decision before deciding on further action.

Editor’s note. We Need a Law is a Canadian pro-life advocacy group.

Categories: Canada