In a decision released today, Justice Bruce Cohen of the BC Supreme Court declined to strike down provisions of the BC Elections Act that infringe constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression because he found they were justified in a free and democratic society.
FIPA brought the constitutional challenge last year, after attempts to persuade the government to amend the law were repeatedly rejected.
BC is the only jurisdiction in Canada which does not have a minimum amount that must be spent on ‘advertising’ before a person or group is required to register with the election authorities. We argued that this absolute ban on unregistered expression was unconstitutional as it applies to things like handwritten signs or electronic communications with a value of zero. Studies have shown people and groups avoid public comment, for fear of hefty fines and even jail time for violating the law.
We are reviewing the decision and our options with our legal counsel, Sean Hern of Farris Vaughn, who represented us pro bono in this matter.
The reasons for judgment can be found here.