From left, Councillors Jesse Woodward, Brittny Anderson and Janice Morrison discuss street banner policy. Photo: City of Nelson video screenshot

Nelson to get legal opinion on right-to-life street banner

Does the Nelson Right to Life banner violate the Charter of Rights?

Nelson council has decided to get a legal opinion on whether a right-to-life banner on Baker Street contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

There is no such banner on the street now, but in the past the group’s banners have been controversial. Various community groups pay the city to hang their banners for one week each year.

The agenda item at council’s March 4 meeting was intended to simply decide whether to discontinue hanging community banners at a second location, on the Civic Centre, for safety reasons, and that passed easily.

But then Councillor Brittny Anderson asked about council’s Community Flag and Street Banner Policy which, quoting the Charter, states all banners must be “free of any demeaning, derogatory, exploitative or unfair comment or representation based on race, colour, ancestry, ethnic origin, creed, religious affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital, or family status.”

Anderson wanted to know how council would decide whether the Nelson Right to Life banner violates the charter.

City manager Kevin Cormack suggested council could get a legal opinion on this.

“According to the government of Canada,” Anderson said, “sexual and reproductive rights is not only a health issue but also considered a human rights and gender equality issue. I think we need to have clarification in the policy of something I believe infringes on the Charter. I do understand the freedom of speech argument and think there should be freedom of speech, but we also need to hold up the sexual and reproductive rights of women.”

Councillors Jesse Woodward and Rik Logtenberg said the banner, because of its location, seems to be an endorsement from the city. Woodward said this is confusing if the banner is placed by a group that opposes other groups.

“That banner is in a prominent spot and is for many people their first experience of Nelson, and the groups that have that banner are branding the city with that event,” Logtenberg said.

“Do we want to say, ‘Welcome to Nelson, it’s Right-to-Life Week?’”

Cormack said banners are not meant to be endorsements.

“It is for groups to advertise events, like National Nurses Week,” he said. “Council is not there to make judgements.”

Last year there were banners on 19 of 52 weeks, placed by such groups as the LVR grads, Dance Umbrella, Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, the Kalein Centre, Kootenay Pride, the Nelson Road Kings, and the Selkirk College Fine Woodworking show, as well as Nelson Right to Life.

Last year’s Nelson Right to Life banner read: “Right to Life Week. Speaker, Nov. 8, 7 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre. Walk for Life, Nov. 11, 2 p.m. at Lakeside Park.”

The city’s banner policy states the “community flag and banner program is to help promote community occasions or events of a cultural, social, environmental or recreational nature and shall not be used to make a statement of any kind. Occasions, events or announcements shall be specific happenings within the community.”

Mayor John Dooley said if council gets a legal opinion, council would have to live with the result.

“We have to keep in mind that if the opinion comes back and says this policy is fine, then it’s done,” Dooley said.

Related: Nelson council updates banner policy

Just Posted

Contempt charge against Balfour logging protesters dropped on technicality

A B.C. Supreme Court justice ruled Cooper Creek Cedar failed to file a contempt application

Developer offers details for former Kerr Apartment site

Wayne Woodward is planning a five-storey building on Victoria Street

Jail time for driver involved in Castlegar road rampage

Sean Patrick Byrne caused havoc on Castlegar roads in November

UPDATED: Meth possession charges considered after car rolls off Nelson highway

Vehicle landed beside the Rosemont pedestrian trail

Kootenay Lake’s first marine waste pump-out opens

Sewage facility is located at the Prestige marina

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

Most Read