TORONTO – it is a great pro-life victory that Bill C-169, the amendments to the Canada Elections Act, has been thrown out by the Alberta Supreme Court.

On June 26, 1984, Justice Donald Medhurst of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that the changes made to the freedom of expression guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The National Citizens Coalition and its president, Colin Brown of London, Ontario had asked the court to strike down the amendments contained in Bill C-169.

The decision means that individuals and groups (including pro-life individuals and groups) will again be free to oppose or promote political candidates during a federal election campaign.

Calling the decision “a victory for Canada,” Allen Hunter, legal counsel for the NCC, added that it is “technically possible” for an appeal to be heard by the Alberta Court of Appeal in the fall.

At the time, former Justice Minister Mark MacGuigan (named as defendant in the action), said it would take some time for the government to review the decision and to decide whether it would be appealed.

(Mark MacGuigan has now accepted an appointment to the Bench.)

The new Minister of Justice, Donald Johnson has since announced that the government will not appeal Justice Medhurst’s ruling.

The Elections Act has been changed to make it an offence, subject to a $5,000.00 fine and five years in jail, to advertise in support or opposition of a registered party of candidate during a federal election without the permission of that party or candidate.

As well, parties or candidates would have to include the cost of advertising as part of their limited allowable election expanses.

In his judgment, Justice Medhurst said that the government must show that the ban is “a reasonable limit,” and that it can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

“This involves a weighing of the individual right of freedom of expression in relation to society of an effective system for the election of members of parliament.

“In my opinion, the limitation must be considered for the protection of a real value to society and not simply to reduce or restrain criticism, no matter how unfair such criticism may be.”

“It has been said that the true test of free expression in a society is whether it can tolerate criticism of its fundamental values and institutions.”

Judge Medhurst went on to say that “Fears or concerns of mischief that may occur are not adequate reasons for imposing a limitation.”

“In my view, it has not been established to the degree required that the fundamental freedom of expression need to be limited.  The limitation has not been shown to be reasonable or demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

The decision means that Campaign Life may now state the positions of politicians on abortion during an election campaign, without fear of prosecution.

CAS