OCLA position paper on institutional bias against pro-life campaigners in Ontario

Posted on April 29, 2015

The Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA) is opposed to the evident statutory and institutional bias that exists in Ontario against the free-expression rights of pro-life campaigners.

The violations of the right to free expression include both university-campus suppressions of student pro-life events, and an unconstitutional statute that explicitly targets pro-life expression in the public sphere.

When free expression is suppressed on campus, the institutional bias of Ontario courts is such that judges are willing to entertain the loophole that “universities are not government” in order to deny Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protections on campuses, rather than admit that a public university’s provisions of grounds and facilities for the purpose of educational and political expression is a “government activity” that attracts Charter protection [1].

Regarding the said unconstitutional statute, Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act contains a section (s. 65(5.7)) which explicitly excludes all information about abortions, including any statistical data and charts, from any access. This means that there is no right whatsoever in Ontario for any individual or association to access government information “relating to the provision of abortion services” [2].

The statutory exclusion was not justified during parliamentary discussion (members were silent on the exclusion), is contrary to the principle of transparency and accountability in a free and democratic society, and is a violation of Canada’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [3].

The exclusion effectively prohibits expression on the excluded records, and thereby violates the Charter right to free expression of the requesters of the information [4].

The OCLA seeks to raise the concern that there is palpable institutional bias against pro-life advocates in Ontario and that this is harmful to society and substantively unjust towards members of the community [5].

Endnotes

[1] See: Lobo v. Carleton University, 2012 ONSC 254 (CanLII); and Lobo v. Carleton University, 2012 ONCA 498 (CanLII).

[2] Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, RSO 1990, c F.31.

[3] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 19(2); and General comment No. 34, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Committee, 102nd session, CCPR/C/GC/34, paragraphs 3, 8, 18, and 35

[4] See: Notice of Application, dated April 21, 2015, Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada, Charter challenge, Court File No. 15-64024, filed in Ottawa, (LINK).

[5] Recently: Constitutional challenge seeks truth of abortion numbers, The Catholic Register, April 23, 2015.

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