The following letter has been sent to a number of people by Marianne Wilkinson, Kanata North Councilor and member of the Transit Committee:
Thank you for contacting me about the situation with respect to an ad that has been rejected for use on City buses by City staff. A great deal of misinformation has been put out on this issue and I have been accused of being against freedom of speech. That is not what this is about. I am a strong proponent of freedom of speech and support this group and any other in putting forward their views.
The issue is one of an advertising policy approved by City Council and delegated to staff for implementation. The key parts of 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.
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.”
Staff have followed the policy in making their decision to not permit the wording of the ad as presented. The group was informed that it could advertise information about their views and invite people to come to an event or contact them. In my view it is not right for Council to overturn the staff decision. If the policy is wrong it is the policy that should be amended rather than having an ad hoc decision to ignore it in any particular case.
Councillor, Ward 4, Kanata North
City of Ottawa
110 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1
613-580-2474 fax 613-580-2514