After a relatively brief change in policy, the City of Salmon Arm will once again be allowing non-commercial advertising on its bus benches.
Reverting to its previous policy was in response to complaints from the Shuswap Pro-Life Society and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
President of the society, Hildegard Krieg, wrote to council on April 18, 2022, stating that for the previous 14 years, the society had been advertising on the city’s transit benches “to promote public awareness of the sanctity of life.”
On Dec. 31, 2021, the society was told by the city’s contractor that advertising on the bus benches was restricted to commercial advertising and, on April 2, 2022, the society’s advertising was removed, she wrote.
Krieg said it is not constitutional to prohibit non-commercial advertising on government-owned transit facilities.
The city responded that the limiting of advertising on city bus benches to commercial-only is being applied fairly and consistently and does not represent a radical frustration of the society’s right to expression, as there are many other ways to express the society’s message.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms then wrote to the city on behalf of Krieg and the pro-life society, requesting that the city “cease interference with Ms. Krieg’s constitutional right to freedom of expression on City bus benches.”
It said if the city refused, a court petition would be filed challenging the constitutionality of the city’s policy and decision. The centre also provided a couple of court cases supporting its argument.
On June 20, the city sent an email to the Justice Centre’s lawyer, stating it will not be enforcing the aspect of the Transit Bus Benches Advertising Agreement that requires advertising on the bus benches to be ‘commercial advertising.’
“As such, so long as the advertising otherwise meets the requirements of the Agreement and is approved by the contractor, the City will not refuse the advertising.”
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms stated on its website that on June 21, 2022, the city accepted Krieg’s request to reinstate Shuswap Pro-Life Society’s advertisements.
The city told Black Press it would not be providing a statement on the issue.
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