Translink: Advertising on Transit System

Translink Media Release: August 27, 2013

Recently, TransLink received comments regarding an advertisement currently running within the transit system.

TransLink does not endorse nor advocate any position put forward by outside advertisers. In addition, as a public agency, TransLink’s advertising policy cannot violate freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Freedom of expression is a protected right under the Charter.

TransLink does not have the legal authority to deny ads as long as the ads comply with the Code of Canadian Advertising Standards, other laws such as the Human Rights Act and TransLink’s Advertising Policy. This is in accordance with a 2009 Supreme Court of Canada decision that struck down the portion of TransLink’s Advertising Policy that prohibited advocacy ads.

The Disappearing Palestine ad was referred to the Canadian Advertising Standards office for review by Lamar (the contracted agency that oversees ad placements and buys on our transit system) prior to its placement. In addition, TransLink sought a third-party legal opinion about this ad with regard to the Canadian Charter. That legal advice noted the Supreme Court of Canada decided that TransLink is subject to the Charter in its role as the host of advertising.

If TransLink accepts advertising, it must not restrict content, (i.e., the freedom of expression of its advertising customer or potential customer under Section 2(b) of the Charter) except in accordance with Section 1 of the Charter which makes all Charter Rights subject to “such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” TransLink has been advised that no such “limit prescribed by law” would prohibit the Disappearing Palestine advertisement under TransLink’s Advertising Policy, the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, or other applicable “law” such as the Human Rights Act.

We appreciate that some advertisements on the transit system may cause concern for customers. However, our advertising policy is posted online and guides all advertising on TransLink property. Concerns about this ad – or any advertising on the transit system – can be referred to the Canadian Advertising Standards office.

As a transparent public organization, we continue to uphold the laws of our country while we work to provide the best possible customer service. We hope concerned customers understand that within defined limits TransLink has no legal authority to decline advertising content.

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