Saskatchewan’s highest court is dismissing an appeal made by a Prince Albert anti-abortion group about its freedom of expression claim in a public square.
The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal found the charter rights of the Prince Albert Right to Life Association (PARLA) were not breached when it attempted to fly its flag at the city hall community flagpole in 2017.
The group’s lawyer called this a unique case.
“You had a city literally cancelling an entire platform of public expression in response to their mishandling of a single application,” Marty Moore said.
The panel of judges maintained the Court of Queen’s Bench decision which found the city had to pay $6,000 in costs to the association.
The City of Prince Albert’s lawyer told Global News local administration has always promoted and been receptive to public discussion.
“It has a concern that the discourse be reasonable and respectful and where it can happen in a manner that isn’t escalated in dispute,” Mitchell Holash said.
Prior to Right to Life week in 2017, the city received a petition with hundreds of signatures asking for the city not to raise the flag.
The flag has an image of a cartoon fetus with the words, “please let me live” written across it.
Holash added the city was still under the impression discussions were taking place between both parties.
“It had made some suggestions through the mayor with the delegation that was given by (city) council to see whether the group wanted to fly a different flag,” he said.
The city took the community flagpole down shortly after, which resulted in the charter rights application being dismissed by the lower court’s judge.
The Court of Appeal decision stated the lack of a clear decision from the city on the group’s flag application hindered the panel from allowing them to rule in this case and that it all shouldn’t be this difficult to interpret.
“A public square is an important space in Canadian democracy and Canadian society. If all of the public is not permitted to express themselves in the public square, there’s a violation of our fundamental freedoms,” Moore added.
PARLA said it will continue to celebrate Right to Life week in Prince Albert, but the organizer told Global News the controversial flag is older and will be replaced.