CHPOn Oct. 4, the Christian Heritage Party scored a legal victory over the City of Hamilton, Ont., regarding removal of their political advertising about transgender issues from bus shelters in the city.

In 2016, the CHP purchased bus shelter ads that depicted a male entering a door with the sign “Ladies Showers.” There were also words “Competing human rights: where is the justice?” On August 10, 2016, the city required its local transportation service, HSR, to take down the signs, apologized for the advertisement’s “offensive nature,” and warned Outfront Media, which arranges advertising on the city’s transportation system, to be more careful about ad content.

Hamilton city councilor Aidan Johnson, who raised objections to the ad in city council, said the CHP ads made self-identifying transgender individuals feel unwelcome in bus shelters.

The CHP and its Hamilton Mountain electoral district association sued the city. Last month, a Judicial Review panel ruled unanimously against the city. A week later, a Hamilton legal services spokesman, told the CBC the city will appeal the Divisional Court decision, claiming it has the right to prevent discriminatory messages on city property and services.

The three-member Judicial Review said that typically the city permitted freedom of expression to political parties and found that the city’s administration did not properly consult with the CHP before taking down the signs.

The CHP purchased advertising rights for a full month, and the posters were a direct challenge to a proposed city policy to allow biological males to access female washrooms, change rooms, and showers, if they self-identified as females.

The decision said that “regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with the CHP’s politics, there is no question that the CHP was attempting to engage in a political discussion and to convey a position on a topic of active political interest to both the city and its voters.”

CHP leader Rod Taylor said in a statement, “This decision is a victory not only for CHP Canada but for all political parties.” Taylor explained, “by this ruling, the panel has showed their support for the ‘competing human right’ of freedom of speech in Canada.”

Jim Enos, president of of Hamilton Mountain Electoral District Association, applauded the ruling. “Government at all levels cannot simply force the public to be silent on issues in the public square because their perspective is not supported by a few employees of the government,” he said. “We are pleased not only with the unanimous decision alone, but also with the strength of it, and its insistence that freedom of speech is paramount in a pluralistic society.”

Lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos, who represented the CHP in court, said the decision, “has simply affirmed the importance of freedom of expression and more particularly, the important role freedom of political expression plays in our society.”

Polizogopoulos also said, “if this type of political censorship was upheld, it could have been used as an authority to allow a sitting government to shut down any kind of comment or criticism of its policy decisions.”