fighting compelled political speech

The issue

Forcing an opinion on someone, or putting words in their mouth, is a violation of their liberty, freedom of thought, association and expression.  When someone does it from a position of power, it is demeaning and an abuse of authority. When a government does it to their citizens, it is important to take action and stand up to power.

That is why we are fighting for freedom of speech in Ontario.

CCLA is taking the Ontario government to court for forcing gas stations to put up stickers that we say are nothing less than government propaganda. Every single day, we choose the information we read and the information we share. What we share expresses our thoughts and feelings about life and how we see the world around us. How we interact with it. But what if you were forced to share something that you thought was inaccurate or untrue? What if you were forced to share something, and if you didn’t, the government could hand you a new fine every single day?

Our claim argues that the law violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ protection of freedom of expression. 

Forcing retailers to post a particular, government-mandated message about a political issue, particularly just prior to a federal election, is compelled speech that is not reasonable and cannot be justified by any compelling government objective. 

Our recent work

2019 fight for free speech

In October, the Ontario Government served the Canadian Civil Liberties Association with their Statement of Defence in the Ontario Sticker law challenge by CCLA.  

Their Defence is that the Ford Government’s sticker does not contain a political message.  We disagree. 

With their anti-carbon tax stickers, the Ford Government is sticking it to free speech, by forcing gas owners to stick ‘em up or pay up.  That’s unconstitutional compelled speech, because it uses the power of the state to propagate government propaganda, using the powerful legal threat of fining dissenters.  So we at CCLA are standing up to their abuse of power by taking them to court,” Executive Director Michael Bryant. 

The provincial government can engage in a war of words with the federal government over the carbon tax, but it cannot use the threat of fines to conscript private businesses to take up its cause,” Cara Zwibel, Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program.

we believe you should be able to speak for yourself and not be fined for not spreading government propaganda.

UPDATES

May 8, 2020 – CCLA has filed its written argument in our challenge to the Ontario government’s mandatory gas stickers. The argument we put forward is that. while the government has every right to oppose the federal government’s approach to climate change, it does not have the right to force private retailers to convey its political message. We will have the government’s response in a few weeks, and hope to be before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in this case in early July.

October 30, 2019 – CCLA is served the Ontario government’s Statement of Defence.

September 3, 2019 – CCLA files our Statement of Claim.

August 30, 2019 – Law requiring gas station owners in Ontario to post anti-carbon tax stickers comes into effect. Individuals could be fined up to $500 each day, or up to $1,000 a day for subsequent offences. Corporations could be fined up to $5,000 a day, or up to $10,000 a day for subsequent offences.

April 29, 2019 – CCLA sends a letter to the Ontario government saying we will challenge the carbon tax stickers, as it is compelled speech.

MATERIALS

June 29, 2020 CCLA’s Factum

June 29, 2020 Ontario’s Factum

May 14, 2020 CCLA’s Factum

October 30, 2019 Ontario’s Statement of Defence

September 3, 2019 Statement of Claim

April 29, 2019 CCLA’s letter to Ontario Government.