Humanists plan atheist bus protest

Ottawa-area humanists plan to protest a city hall meeting on March 11 at which councillors are scheduled to debate a controversial atheist advertisement that OC Transpo has refused to allow on its buses.

The proposed ad – which reads: THERE IS PROBABLY NO GOD. NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE – has appeared on buses in Britain and has sparked an uproar in several Canadian cities after the Freethought Association of Canada launched its own “Atheist Bus Campaign” earlier this year.

Members of the Humanist Association of Ottawa demonstrated at a previous transit committee meeting, wearing T-shirts and blue tape over their mouths in a symbolic claim that their free speech was being denied.

The group’s website describes the planned protest, indicating 17 people currently plan to participate. 

“We will do our protest inside City Hall, right outside the room where City Council will be meeting,” reads an invitation for others to join the event.

Bay Ward Coun. Alex Cullen, chair of the transit committee, put forward a motion at city council on Feb. 25 that OC Transpo be directed to accept the no-god ads, citing the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the right to freedom of religion. Cullen also cited a section of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards which states: “The fact that a particular product or service may be offensive to some people is not sufficient grounds for objecting to an advertisement for that product or service."

Depending on the outcome of the March 11 meeting, Ottawa will either join Toronto and Calgary as cities that have accepted the ad, or several other Canadian cities – including Halifax, London and Vancouver — that have refused to allow the atheist message on their buses.

Calgary Transit riders were to experience the ads first hand this week as they roll out on city buses.  The ads are currently appearing on Toronto buses and at subway stops.