FIPA court challenge to BC Election Act in Court of Appeal

Photo under CC licence by Flickr/Joe Mabel
Photo under CC licence by Flickr/Joe Mabel

The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association is continuing its battle to protect freedom of expression during elections in this province.

The latest round in FIPA’s Charter challenge to the BC Election Act was heard by the BC Court of Appeal on Friday, February 13, 2015. Links to court documents in this case can be found here. After an all day hearing, the Court reserved its decision, which will likely be released in the coming months.

BC has the only electoral system 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.

Last year, a BC Supreme Court judge ruled that although the third party spending provisions did violate the right to freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the violation was not ‘trivial or insubstantial’ as claimed by the government, it could be justified under section 1 of the Charter.

“This appeal is important for freedom of speech during elections,” said FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “Since the original decision came down, the BC government has expanded this suppression of individuals and groups to municipal elections as well.”

We also thank lawyers Sean Hern and Alison Latimer of Farris Vaughan, who continue to represent FIPA pro bono in this case.