Canadian Constitution Foundation Letter to the City of Moncton re: ARANB Sign Removal from Buses

Posted on

March 9, 2020

VIA EMAIL (isabelle.leblanc@moncton.ca)

ATTN: Isabelle LeBlanc Director, Corporate Communications

City of Moncton, 655 Main Street

Moncton, NB E1C 1E8

Dear Isabelle:

RE: Removal of advertisements on City of Moncton buses

As Executive Director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, I am contacting you pursuant to your decision to remove the advertisements of the Anglophone Rights Association of New Brunswick (“ARANB”) in November 2019.

Specifically, the signs were placed on the back of five buses owned by the City of Moncton and read: “Do you feel the implementation of bilingualism has gone too far?”

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”) protects “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.”1 We believe that removal of these signs unjustifiably infringes constitutionally entrenched rights to freedom of expression. There are several decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada which demonstrate why the City’s actions are likely unconstitutional.

The extent of protection for s 2(b) expression was addressed in R v Keegstra, where the Court held that where an activity conveys or attempts to convey a meaning, it has expressive content and thus falls within the scope of the expression; the type of meaning conveyed is “irrelevant.”2 Further, the Supreme Court of Canada held that in addition to protection of expressive activity, s 2(b) of the Charter also protects the right to such expression in certain public locations.3 A public bus has been found to be a location where the freedom of expression is protected.4 Government entities cannot restrict expression in public spaces unless it is so offensive that it is discriminatory, or advocates terrorism or violence.5 Our two primary concerns regarding your decision to remove the advertisements of the ARANB are outlined below.

1 Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms, s 12, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c11, s 2(b).

2 R v Keegstra, [1990]

3 SCR 697, 1990 CanLII 24 (SCC) at [emphasis added]. 3 Montréal (City) v 2952-1366 Québec Inc, 2005 SCC 62, [2005] 3 SCR 141 at para 61.

4 Greater Vancouver Transportation v Canadian Federation of Students – British Columbia Component, 2009 SCC 31, [2009] 2 SCR 295 at para 46 [GVTA].

5 Ibid at para 76.

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