FIPA’s Charter challenge to protect freedom of expression during elections in British Columbia made its final stop in the Supreme Court of Canada with a hearing on the morning of October 11. After a three year battle, the high court heard from FIPA, the BC and Canadian Civil Liberties Associations, and the Attorneys-General for Ontario, Quebec and Canada.
The Court reserved its decision.
BC is the only province in Canada that requires a person or group to register with authorities in order to discuss election issues – even if they spend little to no money. FIPA argued that this absolute ban on unregistered expression is unconstitutional as it applies to things like handwritten signs, or other low cost communications. Studies have shown that people and groups have avoided public comment in past elections for fear of hefty fines (up to $10,000) and up to a year in jail for inadvertently violating the law.
With the provincial election set for May 9, 2017, the campaign period is only six months away.
“This is an important national issue, but the consequences are particularly serious for British Columbia. We hope the Court hands down its decision before the campaign period” said FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will find in our favour and strike down this law.”
Many thanks to FIPA’s pro bono lawyers Sean Hern and Alison Latimer of Farris Vaughn for representing us and the public’s interest in this case.