Approval Received in Ottawa!


Despite receiving some opposition from various Councilors at Ottawa City Hall to delay the vote, our advertisement today received approval! Councilor Cullen made a very good case to support our advertisement and the city’s legal council had informed him that if we challenged their decision through the courts, they most definitely would have lost and wasted tax payers money with needless legal costs. Councilor Cullen, I applaud your great effort and I think you did an excellent job.

But even in our success I have to say that I am a little disappointed by the reaction of a few Ottawa councilors. Some of them didn’t seem to understand how hypocritical OC Transpo’s response to deny our ad really was. The few that opposed our ad kept citing that religious advertisements were permitted only “[…]if the information is designed to promote a specific meeting, gathering or event and the location, date and time of said event”. Contrast this policy to their approval of the Anglican Church, United Church of Canada, Alpha Course, and Bus Stop Bible Study ads that did not advertise a meeting, gathering, or event but rather some type of religious doctrine or school of thought.

Councilor Bob Monette mentioned that our ad was created to be funny, implying that we are running some sort of media stunt or joke. Let me tell you that this is not a media stunt, advertising a message that doesn’t agree with mainstream religion doesn’t warrant such a claim to say we are trying to be “funny”. We think it is very serious that people try to impose their beliefs on others without any credible evidence to support their claims, and it is even more serious that they try to impose their beliefs on children before a child can develop and become their own person and formulate their own world view. Somehow religion can make extreme and extraordinary claims, preach all sorts of ideologies, quote a book and claim it is true in its entirety and that people should live by it despite its scriptures of racism, hate, sexism, and murder and still these groups remain tax exempt. This is not funny, and it is not funny asking people not to worry about that, put it all aside, and just go ahead and enjoy their lives.

All that being said, congratulations Ottawa!

Author: Chris

22 thoughts on “Approval Received in Ottawa!”

  1. I JUST GOT BACK FROM CITY HALL! Today was a real hoot!

    First of all, we should be thanking Councillor Wilkinson and the others for their opposition to our ads. You heard me, we should be thanking them! Without their opposition we would have just taken out a few ads on Ottawa buses and that would have been the end of it. We got ENORMOUS amounts of media coverage. Frankly, I think we got millions in free publicity. Last night I did a media interview on French CBC TV in Ottawa. Today, I and several other of the 20 or so members of HAO sat in the council chambers with our matching T-shirts were interviewed by the media both before and after the council vote. The vote was 13-7 to allow us to run the ads.

    We figured we were going to win, so we decided to be “good winners”. Nothing looks worse in the media than being “in your face” about a victory. We said that this was a wonderful decision for ALL Canadians who believe in Freedom of expression and Charter Rights. We invited everyone, Chrsitian, Muslim, Atheist or whatever to celebrate with us.

    The cherry on the Sunday after a long, tiring day, was when I got to appear in a live broadcast debate with Marianne Wilkinson, of all people, on CTV Newsnet. Here again, I decided to be generous and not to gloat about winning. I mentioned that I could respect the fact that she felt offended by the ads, but that is what tolerance is all about in a pluralistic society. For that matter, there are probably vegetarians offended by ads for meat. But I quoted Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien who told council that the Interfaith Council of releigious leaders had said they found our ads acceptable!

    I also congratulated her for caring enough about rights and freedoms to have proposed that the City’s policy be revised to keep it up to date with modern human rights decisions.

    All the Ottawa Papers should be full of stuff about us tomorrow!

  2. Well… if we were rejected I was thinking about purchasing billboards in front of City Hall to put our ads up specifically to taunt them for a poor decision. Fortunately they made the right call… well 13 of them did anyways.

    Mrs. Wilkinson today said she was voting no because she was a christian and she said that it was her opinion on why she voted no. That was the wrong answer to give, especially on public record. She should be voting to represent the electorate that put her in charge of wtv ward she’s councilor of and NOT based on her own opinion. That’s not how politics work, if city councilors are making decisions based on personal preference and opinion rather than representing the electorates views, they’re not doing their job and should be canned.

  3. Chris,
    I agree with you about Marianne Wilkinson’s responsibility to represent her constituents rather than her own opinion when such issues are presented. It is also her duty to educate her constituents on the importance of upholding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when their wishes are in opposition to those rights.
    This decision is a good example of how our democracy can work.
    It’s a good day!

  4. Michel,
    Yes, I was thinking about how much more exposure the ads were getting this morning when I watched CBC Newsworld show the atheist bus ads during their news coverage of the Ottawa city council vote and the protest. Excellent!

  5. I watched the whole debate on the web. I know it is said that we get the government we deserve, but, in the cases of both Councilor Wilkinson and Monette, I am forced to wonder how anyone with such a low level of comprehension of the matters at hand could make it past the test of the Ottawa electorate. Then, to see them publicly use their personal religion as the basis for their vote on behalf of their constituents was galling.

    Fortunately, thirteen of the councilors have arrived in the 21st. century, where all Canadians have an equal right of expression. :-)

  6. Out here in BC. I ended up watching mainly the closing arguments of the debate.
    I was struck by Councillor Cullin who illustrated the fundamental values in play
    by comparing a ‘No’ vote to: “Sending Black’s to the back of the bus.”
    Praise be to Ottawa’s Council not to have fallen prey to that —
    with a solid 13 Yea’s versus 7 Nay’s.

    And Michel:
    Know that your restraint in terms of being “good winners” was noted.
    I had expected to see no more then councillors debating.
    But Lo and Behold, somebody back there switched the camera to show the public gallery’s reaction to the outcome of the vote!
    And there you were indeed, a triangle of white shirts, being very well composed, neither applauding, nor shouting, nor jumping up.
    But merely making some “thumbs up” gestures towards the councillors.

    After witnessing this results I went for a walk to the beach and looked out over the water. It was very calm and very still.
    Today was a very good day indeed.

    One more thing:
    With respect to the legalities which have surfaced, should Halifax, Vancouver and Victoria take notice?

  7. The vote went like this:

    The motion to accept the ads was approved by: Councillors Clive Doucet, Christine Leadman, Peter Hume, Diane Holmes, Jan Harder, Michel Bellemare, Peggy Feltmate, Steve Desroches, Jacques Legendre, Georges Bédard, Gord Hunter, Shad Qadri, and Alex Cullen.

    Voting against the motion were Miranne Wilkinson, Bob Monette, Rainer Bloess, Eli El-Shantiry, Doug Thompson, Rob Jellett and Mayor Larry O’Brien.


    You asked a very pertinent question in posting no. 10, and as a person who has some legal training, my answer is that cities like Halifax, Vancouver and Victoria should indeed take notice, because the City of Ottawa received VERY clear advice from its Sollicitor, Rick O’Connor, to the effect that refusing our ads would be ruled a violation of our Charter rights.

    This opinion is in the form of Memo dated March 10, 2009 to the Mayor and Members of (Ottawa City) Council from Rick O’Connor, the City Clerk and Sollicitor. I wish I had an electronic copy. Perhaps I can get one from the City. It is file no. L06-02 ADVE. Mr. O’Connor goes over the whole question of what is meant by “Offensive” and “Freedom of Expression” and summarizes pertinent court decisions. I will not try to summarize all six pages, but I will quote the conclusion: “Based on information available at this time, it appears the City may not be able to justify its refusal of the proposed advertising on the basis that it is offensive, and consequently, it may be found to be an unreasonable infringement of the Association’s freedom of expression under. . . .the Charter.
    . . . . . Finally, in the absence of further evidence to support a finding that the ads would be offensive to a reasonable number of transit users, it will be difficult for the City to justify its rejection of the ads, and to sucessfully defend a legal challenge if one is received.”

    I hope this memo by Ottawa’s City Clerk and Solicitor is brought to the attention of Vancouver, Victoria and Halifax city councils, if they have refused our ads. After all, we are talking about the same ads, in the same country, subject to the same Charter. I think you would by doing your municipal governments a favour by warning them that they could be sucessfully challenged in court for what they are doing. Perhaps they could request a copy of the O’Connor memo, from one Municipal Government to another.

  9. So when can we expect to see the ads on the buses? In time for the Tupil Festival? Great time to run the ads.

  10. Surely the money for these ads could be put to better use than a public shouting match that only strokes your own egos. This smacks of smugness and glee in taunting the religious, which atheists are unfortunately too well-known for. Religion is nothing more than superstition. Spending your time wrestling a pig will only lower you to its level, get you dirty, and besides the pig loves it. You validate it every time you wrestle it. Why not donate the money to Amnesty International or other humanitarian causes that are doing something real, rather than arguing over someone’s delusion?

  11. it’s been 5 days since the ads were approved here in Ottawa, and I still haven’t seen an ad yet. I was even waiting at a bus station (Baseline Station, for the locals) for over half an hour and didn’t see the ad at all. But what I did see was an unusually large amount of busses with empty ad spaces . . . hmmm . . .

    Has anyone in Ottawa seen the ad yet?

  12. Christian Ad goes up tomorrow.

    There is only a .0001^50 chance that there is God. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

  13. Shekhinah, change the 50 to infinity and you will be closer to the answer. We have to worry about tomorrow with all the religious fanatics still present tomorrow.

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