The 2009 Canadian Atheist Bus Campaign saw the Centre for Inquiry’s ads first banned in cities across the country but ultimately succeeding after a Supreme Court case ruled in favour of freedom of speech in the public square.
Now Pattison Outdoor has refused to run a new round of ads, which would have expanded the previous Campaign to billboards in Vancouver. The new ads move the conversation beyond non-belief, featuring parables that replace religious morality with humanist ethical wisdom.
“Pattison provided no clear rationale to support their decision,” said Kevin Smith, CFI President. “They refused to identify a motive for their rejection or to supply guidelines governing their decision-making process.”
In a 2009 case, the Supreme Court of Canada required the Vancouver transit authority to run political ads, emphasizing that controversial ads are an important part of public discourse. Pattison holds a virtual monopoly on billboard space in Vancouver, giving them the power to censor these ads completely.
CFI will file a complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal for violation of the BC Human Rights Code, which prohibits discrimination in service provision. CFI intends to explore all other legal options.
“CFI has consistently opposed the use of human rights apparatuses as tools of censorship,” said Smith. “Now we intend to use these mechanisms to protect the right of free speech.”