OTTAWA, August 25, 2004 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Focus on the Family Canada, a group devoted to the Christian view of the family, revealed to LifeSiteNews.com Friday that it pulled a simple ad promoting the family just prior to the election period in late May so as not to transgress a federal election law banning such advertising. The May 23 to June 28 Election period was the first time the ‘draconian’ Canadian law was put into effect. Prior to this year courts had ruled the law violated the constitutional right to freedom of expression.
On May 18, five days before the federal election was called by Prime Minister Paul Martin, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the long-fought Elections Act restrictions on third party financing were constitutional. The three dissenting justices laid out the seriousness of the decision.
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote, “Liberal democracy demands the free expression of political opinion, and affirmed that political speech lies at the core of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ guarantee of free expression.” She also noted that “The denial of effective communication to citizens violates free expression where it warrants the greatest protection—the sphere of political discourse.”
The restrictions limit national spending on advertising to under $170,000 – far below what would be needed to launch effective national television, radio and print campaigns. As the dissenting justices put it, “The limits imposed on citizens amount to a virtual ban on their participation in political debate during the election period.” They referred to the limits as “draconian”.
The dissenting Justices warned in their ruling, “The effect of third party limits for spending on advertising is to prevent citizens from effectively communicating their views on issues during an election campaign.”
The limits are draconian since they not only restrict advertising expenses to promote particular parties or candidates but also, and most importantly, restrict advertising on “taking a position on an issue with which they (candidates or parties) are particularly associated.” (See section 350
subsection 2d of the Election Act https://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/E-2.01/15004.html ) That is, if one party takes a definite position against same-sex marriage versus the other parties, third party organizations are severely limited, during election time, from simply promoting natural marriage or anything else that might seem to support that party or candidates opposing same-sex marriage.
Not realized even now by almost all Canadians and even leaders of many organizations is that the law means that churches, faith-based groups and associations, and any individual or group in Canada – besides political parties – are barred from effectively drawing national attention to any topic that becomes politically relevant during elections.
Only the political parties and the media retain the right to significantly influence the public, with the parties having their massive bills ultimately being paid mostly by the taxpayers.
Derek Rogusky, Vice President of Family Policy at Focus on the Family Canada, told LifeSiteNews.com in an interview Friday that an ad supporting the traditional family was pulled prior to the election so as not to infringe the law. The ad ran: “We believe in Mom and Dad. We believe in marriage”, as the main caption with a subscript saying, “Traditional marriage-if you believe in it, protect it. The family is a schoolroom for life, and lasting lessons come from a man and a woman-a father and a mother. We believe in mom and dad. Their marital commitment to each other and their parental commitment to their children is the foundation of our society.”
The revised Elections Act calls offences against the section in question “Strict liability offences,” indicating a penalty of a “summary conviction” for those infringing the law. RCMP media relations officer Sergeant Gilles Deziel told LifeSiteNews.com that a summary conviction offence carries a penalty of “Six months in jail and/or $2000 in fines.”
Rogusky added, “I don’t think it’s our biblical mandate to break a law like that, even though we disagreed with the outcome of the legal decision.” The organization realizes that they are closely watched by homosexual activists and thus “we know that we have to be really careful of what the law says and adhere to it,” said Rogusky.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), which represents more than 130 Christian denominations ministry organizations and educational institutions in Canada feels the law is an outrage. Janet Epp Buckingham, legal counsel for EFC spoke with LifeSiteNews.com Monday about the Supreme Court decision permitting the law to take effect. “I was very upset by the decision,” she said. “The federal government laws on third party advertising during an election campaign are so restrictive that you basically can’t do anything. There’s no way that any organization can even have one national advertisement on any issue during an election campaign.” She noted the spending limits as over $150,000 nationally or $3,000 per federal riding, adding “That doesn’t get you anything.”
Of all the issues on which the Liberal Party Leader and the Conservative Opposition Leader differ, the Election Act restrictions on third party financing is likely one of the most notable. While Liberal Prime Minister Martin and his predecessor Jean Chretien were responsible for enacting and defending the act, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper fought it tooth and nail even prior to his entrance on to the national political stage. The numerous court cases around the legislation are named ‘Harper v. Canada’, since Harper, in his previous role as the head of the National Citizen’s Coalition, was the principal opponent of the legislation.
Of note, the nomination of two radical feminist ideologues to the Supreme Court is certain to bring about similar and worse judicial horror stories with even more unjust laws being upheld by an out-of-control Canadian Supreme Court.
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Tax-Exempt Status a Powerful Tool to Muzzle Churches in Canada