Human rights ad hits the streets, changes policy

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and the National Council of Canadian Muslims' OOH ad changes language guidelines.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression-CJFE and NCCM launch To

A simple new OOH ad from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and the National Council of Canadian Muslims has hit the streets after a bit of a bumpy ride.

The ad includes text from Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, written in Arabic next to English copy that reads “These rights belong to all of us.”

Section 2 is the portion of the Act that enshrines “freedom of conscience and religion,” “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication,” “freedom of peaceful assembly,” and “freedom of association.”

The ad (developed in-house, with an idea borrowed from a similar campaign conducted by American Civil Liberties Union) is appearing on billboards and, as of this week, on Toronto transit, thanks to a policy change made by the Toronto Transit Commission.

The ad had originally been put on hold by the TTC’s vendor Pattison Outdoor because of the TTC’s policy stating that at least 50% of a given ad’s copy must be in English in order to appear. CJFE lobbied the TTC and began a social media campaign to change the policy.

On June 1, TTC spokesperson Brad Ross tweeted the organization had “further reviewed the ad within the context of our policy and the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, and will accept the ad.” The TTC has officially ended the 50% English language policy.

The work began appearing on Toronto buses on Monday for a six-week run. It includes a call to action with a link to its website where the organization asks for donations, which it plans to use to expand the campaign to other municipalities.

“Free expression isn’t just a platform for a bad opinion,” said Tom Henheffer, executive director of the CJFE, in a release. “In fact, the idea that it is, is placing the pluralistic and open nature of democracy itself at risk. Counterspeech is free expression too. Your right to speak freely doesn’t mean freedom from consequences for that speech. In this case, we’re using our voice to show leadership on using free expression to challenge hateful ideas.”

Statistics Canada recently revealed that the number of hate crimes reported by Canadian police services increased by 5% in 2015. It reported hate crimes against Muslims had increased 60% from 2014.

Clarification: This story was updated to clarify that it was the TTC’s previous policy that ads required 50% of their text be English, not Pattison Outdoor’s.