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Defend Our Voice: Protect free speech in Toronto

Toronto Right to Life is collecting signatures to submit this petititon officially to the City of Toronto.

In July 2023, the City of Toronto passed a motion (2023.EX6.23) calling for a report on restricting any leaflets or signage with fetal imagery, appealing to the City of London's restrictions on pro-life flyers. This proposal would seriously infringe on the basic rights of Torontonians to share a message in public - the pro-life message on abortion.

We call on the City of Toronto to stop singling out one particular group and one particular message for censorship, and instead, to recognize and uphold the Charter right to freedom of expression.

Canadian courts, all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada, have made it abundantly clear that the right to freedom of expression protects all non-violent expressive activity, even if it is offensive or disturbing to some, and even if it is unpopular. This includes showing photos, and it is a fundamental right of citizens to use public sidewalks or to leaflet. Furthermore, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has ruled that pro-life beliefs that are founded in a person's religious beliefs can qualify for protection from discrimination under creed in the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The City of Toronto is no stranger to the right to protest. For decades, many Torontonians have exercised the right to freedom of expression to share victim photography on a wide variety of issues. Ranging from anti-war protests to vegan activism to pro-life activism to government anti-smoking campaigns to all sorts of other issues, victim imagery is an important part of public discourse on contentious issues in a democracy. People share photos of the victims of violence to appeal for peace and an end to violence. Peacefully sharing a message of non-violence is core to freedom of expression.

The pro-life movement is one such movement, motivated by love for children and for women and families facing difficult pregnancies. Pro-life Torontonians exercise the right to freedom of expression to participate in an important public conversation, like many other people on many other causes.

Whether or not you agree with the pro-life movement, it is a dangerous for democracy when government seeks to silence one particular message on one particular issue, and targets one community to suppress their message.

Whether pro-life or pro-choice, we call on Toronto City Council to uphold the fundamental right to freedom of expression under the Charter for all Torontonians, and to stop targeting the pro-life community for special censorship.

We call on Toronto City Council to vote no on any by-laws that restrict freedom of expression.

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