Pro-life group wins free speech lawsuit over Calgary airport protest
CALGARY, July18, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A provincial court judge has acquitted eight pro-lifers of trespassing charges brought against them by the Calgary Airport Authority for displaying pro-life signs and distributing leaflets at Calgary International Airport.
Judge Allan Fradsham ruled that the right to freedom of expression protects members of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR), who set up a display at the airport on October 22, 2011. Thus, the Calgary Airport Authority violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when the told CBR protesters to leave or be served with trespass notices.
“Based on [Supreme Court of Canada case law] the airport attracts Charter protection, because it is the type of place that has traditionally served as a public forum,” the judge wrote in his decision.
“Airports allow members of the community to meet, congregate and travel to other destinations. The airport is, therefore, the modern equivalent of a city street,” he wrote.
Judge Fradsham wrote that areas of the airport such as the “connecting hall, foyer and waiting area” are by nature open to "democratic discourse, truth finding and self-fulfillment.” The location of the defendants’ expression was therefore protected under the Charter,”
"We are very pleased that this judge has affirmed our right to freedom of expression so that we can continue to shed light on the reality of what abortion does to pre-born Canadians every day," the CCBR's communications director, Jonathon Van Maren, told LifeSiteNews.com.
Van Maren, who was at the airport and charged with trespassing, said that those opposed to the pro-life message have repeatedly used the courts to attempt to suppress freedom of expression.
"Our opponents hope to use the legal system to force us to conceal the evidence of what they support, but the courts have in this instance come through for us," he said.
The court heard that the eight defendants had given Calgary police notice of their intention to set up their display in a public area of the airport, as they had done the previous August 9.
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However, when they arrived, Director of Operations for the Calgary Airport Authority, Allan Lawn, intercepted the group and told them to leave or be charged with trespassing.
Judge Fradsham added, "What the defendants had was a declaration from the Supreme Court of Canada which effectively said that a restriction such as the one placed upon the defendants (by the Calgary Airport Authority) had no effect in law because it violated the defendants’ section 2(b) Charter rights.”
“I am satisfied that the defendants acted under a ‘supposition’ that they had the right to be in the Calgary International Airport and to distribute their literature in the manner in which they were doing it," the judge stated.
John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, represented the defendants in court.
Carpay said, “Decisions like these ones have persuasive influence on other court cases. It is a positive addition to the body of case law regarding free expression rights.”
Jonathon Van Maren noted that Carpay's work defending freedom of expression has been of great benefit to the pro-life cause.
"We are so thankful for the incredible work of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, that has time and time again assisted pro-lifers under fire by the forces of censorship," Van Maren told LifeSiteNews.