Ottawa city council voted last month to ban the atheist ads from OC Transpo buses.1 Last night they voted 13-7 to allow the ads after city solicitor Rick O'Connor told them the ban is an unreasonable infringement of free speech [City blesses atheist ads].
Transit officials made the decision after receiving four complaints from the public, but O'Connor said in the end the city's argument may not hold up in court.Thanks to the Humanist Association of Ottawa for standing up for freedom of expression.
"Based on the information available at this time, it appears that the city may not be able to justify its refusal of the proposed advertising on the basis that it is offensive, and consequently, it may be found to be an unreasonable infringement of the association's freedom of expression under Section 2(b) of the Charter," the memo says.
"If the decision to refuse the ads was based solely on the four complaints received from the public, it is likely that this decision will be found to be unreasonable and lacking in proportionality, and therefore not justifiable under Section 1 of the Charter."
1. Technically, they did not ban the ads. Instead, they failed, in a tie vote, to overturn the decision of OC Transpo. That decision has now been overturned in a second vote and the ads will run.