I have recently become aware that at tonight’s Corporate Administration, Finance and Enterprise Committee meeting a petition will be presented asking for the City to no longer allow pro-life ads on city buses.
I too am a resident of this wonderful city, and am quite concerned by this petition. The ads absolutely should be allowed as an expression of free speech in our democracy. I do recognize that abortion is a legal and regularly practiced option in our country and city.
These ads are not graphic, offensive or advocate any discrimination against any person or group. They do, however, state something that may make people uncomfortable. This is part of democratic life: people can and should be able to say things which challenge the opinions of others. Political parties of all stripes challenge and question the status quo often making people uncomfortable — the recent provincial election campaign challenged people on their thoughts about unions, the environment, the “future of our children”, corruption, and many other issues. This is fair, expected, and necessary.
For city council to decide that a group should not be allowed to purchase bus ads is to make a political statement in favor of or against the ad’s message. To ban ads because some people may be uncomfortable with a message is in effect for city council to decide what the citizens of Guelph should be exposed to. That is hardly in keeping with the incredibly strong community activism that our city embraces and encourages. It would be an enormous step backwards away from rights and from free choice, to decide that in the interest of protecting a choice, differing points of view are no longer welcome in the public sphere.
Those who wish to promote and encourage abortion are free to buy bus ads as well. In a democracy, they should argue in favour of their point of view, not silence those who disagree with them. Our city council is committed to democracy; please uphold the right to free expression at your meeting this evening. Jw