Religious advertising on transit property

The BC Humanist Association does not oppose the right of religious organizations to advertise on transit property.

In February, the BC Humanist Association received a message expressing concern about the existence of Jehovah Witness’s advertising displays on Translink property. At issue was the question of whether these advertisements represented an inappropriate endorsement by a government agency of a particular religious viewpoint.

As a leading voice for secularism in British Columbia, the BC Humanist Association takes these concerns seriously. The Board of Directors discussed the issue at its March 14, 2013 meeting.

In 2009, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Translink is subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and does not have the right to censor political speech on its ads. (See: Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority v. Canadian Federation of Students) In the ruling, advertising is not taken as an endorsement and this protection of freedom of expression arguably extends to religious advertising.

In Translink's Corporate Policy for Advertising on Translink Vehicles and Transit Property, the relevant Standard and Limitation states:

“6. Advertisements... which promotes or opposes a specific theology or religious ethic, point of view, policy or action... must visibly display the name of the sponsoring group."

Based on the Humanist commitment to freedom of expression, the BC Humanist Association’s Board of Directors does not oppose religious groups, including the Jehovah’s witnesses, from advertising on public property, provided:

  • Advertisers do not harass or impose themselves on people;
  • Advertisers clearly indicate the sponsoring organization;
  • Advertisements obey The Canadian Code of Advertising Standardsand
  • That equal advertising opportunities are available for non-religious worldviews.

We welcome feedback on this position. You can contact us at [email protected]

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