British Columbia’s so-called ‘gag law’ is being challenged today in Canada’s Supreme Court. The B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association is arguing the law restricts freedom of expression in the province, and should include an exception for third parties spending less than $500 on election advertising. The hearing is scheduled to take one day.
Anyone who communicates publicly about a political issue during a campaign is required by Section 239 of B.C.’s Election Act to register their information with the chief electoral officer. The penalty for not doing so is a fine of up to $10,000 or even a prison sentence.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is a third party in the case. Lawyer Laura Track said: “If you want to wear a jacket pin or a T-shirt or put a poster up in your window, you’re required to register that communication with the government before you make that communication so the definition of election advertising is really broad.” “Our concern is that this registration requirement is going to deter people from speaking out about important political issues – having to register if you have a political opinion about something with the government is a potential chill on people’s expressive rights.”