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Right to harm


Advertising legislation is in place in Canada to establish ethical trade practices, prevent false performance claimslimit spam, govern promotional contests, and regulate packaging and labelling, along with food and drug advertising.

However, there is little that protects against inappropriate, offensive or inaccurate material. The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (the Code) sets the criteria for acceptable advertising, but has limited enforcement power beyond asking advertiser to rescind an ad and not use it again. However, many municipalities do cite the Code in bylaws and advertising policies, which gives it some authority and strength.

Airdrie now finds itself searching for ways to address complaints about anti-choice advertising. While council said it does not intend to prohibit anti-choice material, some councillors would like to see rules censoring the graphic images within them. Currently, there is little to legally back up this type of legislation – it comes down to a choice of creating a law that will likely face an expensive court battle, or following the status quo. 

The arguments against anti-choice materials are many and promote harmful lies, such as implying abortions are routinely done near-term or at full-term and equating legal abortion with extreme child abuse, along with demeaning or denigrating women who have abortions and promoting public contempt, as well as seriously disturbing children by showcasing graphic images. 

The decision is not an easy one, but residents who are truly concerned need to make their voices heard. Otherwise, council will have little choice but to do the minimum.


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