TORONTO — Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak is urging the city’s legal department to fight a court challenge to the Toronto Transit Commission’s decision to bar an anti-Israeli ad from the transit authority’s property and vehicles.
Pasternak said the authors of an ad, called “Disappearing Palestine,” are promising to challenge the TTC’s decision in court.
“It is our understanding that Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is trying to raise $50,000 to take the TTC to the Supreme Court,” he said.
The city must be ready “to vigorously defend the TTC’s position,” he said. “These ads are false, historically inaccurate, demonizing and have no place in the TTC. The city of Toronto does not want world conflict zones re-enacted in our public places.”
The ads feature a panel of four maps, below which is a photo of a young person surrounded by Israeli soldiers. A petition accessible on the CJPME website calls on supporters to write to the TTC in favour of the ads, which purport to show “Israel’s land grabs and transfer of its civilian population into the occupied Palestinian territories.”
CJPME said it raised $35,000 to be able to post the ads in two major Canadian cities.
The TTC turned down the CJPME’s first request to place the ads last April.
Pasternak said the TTC did so “because they contained statements which could incite discrimination against members of the Jewish and Israeli communities. This violated the TTC’s advertising policy… It is certainly not in keeping with the city’s efforts to be a respectful and tolerant space. Nor does it follow the TTC’s mandate to ensure passengers ‘feel safe and secure’ on Commission property.”
A review board upheld the decision in October.
Pasternak said it was important for the TTC to fight any court challenge to its advertising policy. Otherwise, the transit authority could lose control over the type of ads it would permit.
“If this group is successful, it [would] set a very dangerous precedent where the public transit system could be littered by ads,” Pasternak asserted.
CJPME said it “expects to have to go to court in the coming weeks/months to ensure that the ‘Disappearing Palestine’ ads go up in the TTC.”
It called on supporters to provide financial assistance for the endeavour.
In addition to its transit advertising campaign, CJPME supports an economic boycott of Israel, it calls on performers to avoid appearing in Israel, and it has accused Israel of practising apartheid.
CJPME describes itself as “a secular, non-partisan pan-Canadian grassroots organization with about 43,000 supporters across Canada, of whom about 4,000 are in the GTA.”
Last year, the Palestine Awareness Coalition successfully placed a “Disappearing Palestine” ad in Vancouver’s TransLink transit system that included the caption, “5 Million Palestinians are Classified as Refugees by the UN.”
In 2006 the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned a TransLink policy of rejecting partisan ads. TransLink had previously refused to carry political advertisements from the B.C. Teachers Federation and the Canadian Federation of Students.