Guelph to look at bus ad policy; anti-abortion ads could be affected
Published Tuesday, July 8, 2014 5:39PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 8, 2014 6:47PM EDT
For the past 14 years, anti-abortion group Right for Life has advertised on Guelph Transit buses.
Bearing messages like “This is a child, not a choice” and “Why abortion when there are alternatives?” along with a phone number for a help line, the ads have occasionally sparked controversy and opposition.
“Very simply, they want the ads off. They don’t like the graphics,” says Jakki Jeffs, president of the non-profit’s Guelph branch.
Most recently, Guelph resident Heather Millman started an online petition calling for an end to the advertisements.
After gathering more than 3,000 signatures, she presented the petition to councillors Monday night.
“Those have been running as long as I’ve lived in Guelph … and they’ve always pretty much disgusted me,” Millman tells CTV News.
“They’re telling us that your choices are wrong, that your morality is flawed.”
Currently, the city refers complaints about specific advertisements on buses or other city facilities to a federal body, Advertising Standards Canada.
In response to Millman’s petition, councillors asked city staff to look at creating criteria for ads to meet before receiving approval.
“We’ll develop a policy that will have criteria that we will establish based on compliance with the Charter (and) other federal and provincial legislation,” says city solicitor Donna Jaques.
Millman says she has no issue with Right to Life advertising on buses, but hopes they’ll revise the ads.
“I think they should … really just advertise services rather than make a political statement,” she says.
Jeffs says she considers the ads a form of freedom of expression.
“We have to learn to tolerate ideas and arguments we detest,” she says.
“That’s what Canada is about.”
No significant action is expected to be taken on a new advertising policy until sometime in 2015.
A Guelph transit bus is seen on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013.
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