OC Transpo Bus
Today (March 11th) the Ottawa City Council will vote on a motion to approve our ads. If all goes well, we could be seeing bright pink, orange, and red “probably no god” banners on Ottawa city buses very soon. If you want to tune in from your computer and watch the council vote, visit http://www.ottawa.ca/city_hall/events/plug_in_council_en.html. The webcast begins at 10:00am.
Humanist Association of Ottawa has also organized a protest that is set to take place this morning, those attending are asked to show up by 9:15am at the Lisgar Street Entrance of City Hall (click here for google map). The protest will take place right outside the council chamber.
Last month we were all a little shocked to hear that OC Transpo had rejected our ad; most of us thought it surely would’ve been approved considering Ottawa’s history of religious advertisement acceptance. Pattison Outdoors was also a little surprised- they had been predicting approval. The response from Marianne Wilkinson (Councilor of Ward 4 in the City of Ottawa) was confusing and contradicting to say the least. In her template letter that she used to respond to the majority of incoming emails asking for her reconsideration, she stated:
“[...]this policy include principles in the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards which includes as unacceptable “demean, denigrate or disparage any identifiable person, group of persons, firm, organization, industrial or commercial activity, profession, product or service or attempt to bring it or them into public contempt or ridicule”. It also condones any form of discrimination based on religion.”
Perhaps Ms. Wilkinson hasn’t realized that 1) our advertisement has been approved in Toronto and Calgary and 2) both cities we were approved in are also subject to the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. I also certainly hope she meant to say condemn rather than condone. In her template letter she also said:
Even more direct is article 5 of the OC Transpo Ad Guidelines which states that religious advertising is not permitted “which promotes a specific ideology, ethic, point of view, policy or action, which in the opinion of the City might be deemed prejudicial to other religious groups or offensive to users of the transit system”. It then goes on to state that “Religious advertising will be permitted if the information is designed to promote a specific meeting, gathering ore event and the location, date and time of said event.”
This is odd because many Ottawa residents have seen several religious ad campaigns in recent years, such as the Anglican church’s “cometochurch.ca” campaign, United Church’s “wondercafe” ads, and the Alpha Course campaign. And all campaigns had a few commonalities: 1) they advertised a religious message, 2) none of them contained a location, date, and time for some sort of religious event. Furthermore, the Bus Stop Bible Study ads were approved by OC Transpo – some of which could be viewed as extremely offensive. For example, “What does the LORD your God require of you? He requires you to fear him, to live according to his will, to love him and worship him with all your heart and soul[...]“… apparently they’ll approve the message of a narcissist and megalomaniac but not ours.
Fortunately for us, not all of the members at Ottawa City Council bend the rules to benefit their own religious affiliation. There are some that truly believe in fairness for all rather than double standards, and it is those elected councilors that deserve the respect of the city because they’ve been able to do their jobs properly. Hopefully tomorrow OC Transpo’s double standard against our ad will draw to a close.
On another note, our advertisement in Calgary started running this past weekend. Six more ads are now making their way around on the sides of Calgary’s buses to let people know there’s probably no god.
*Update* 12:02pm March 11th – It looks like our motion is number 10 on the City Council Agenda. If you want to continue to keep an eye on the council meeting visit http://www.ottawa.ca/online_services/council_live/english/index.html to watch it live.
WHEREAS the Free Thought Association of Canada is running an advertisement campaign on public transit buses that states “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying And Enjoy Your Life”; and,
WHEREAS these ads are running on buses in Toronto and Calgary, but have been rejected by OC Transpo based on their interpretation of their policy that this message “might be deemed prejudicial to other religious groups or offensive to users of the transit system”; and,
WHEREAS the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states:
“2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;” and,
WHEREAS these fundamental freedoms can be “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society” (Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms); and,
WHEREAS the Supreme Court of Canada, in interpreting the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has ruled that a public transit company, city or municipality cannot impose a blanket ban on religious (or political) advertising (Canadian Federation of Students vs. Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority); and,
WHEREAS the Supreme Court of Canada, in interpreting the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has ruled that no individual has a right not to be offended, in particular: “The key is that people will disagree about important issues, and such disagreement, where it does not imperil community living, must be capable of being accommodated at the core of a modern pluralism. People are free to disagree with our beliefs as they wish.” (Chamberlain vs. Surrey School District No. 36); and,
WHEREAS the Canadian Human Rights Commission has stated: “The essence of the concept of the freedom of religion is: the right to declare religious beliefs openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal; and the right to manifest religious belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination.”; and,
WHEREAS the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, in Section 14 – Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals, states: “It is recognized that advertisements may be distasteful without necessarily conflicting with the provisions of this Clause (14); and the fact that a particular product or service may be offensive to some people is not sufficient grounds for objecting to an advertisement for that product or service.” ;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that OC Transpo be directed to accept the ads proposed by the Free Thought Association of Canada (subject to the usual charges).
Discuss this on our forums at http://atheistbus.ca/forum