On Monday the Western Canada Wilderness Committee received written notice from Elections B.C. banning the distribution of the groups Vote Wild newspaper. According to Elections B.C. the paper constitutes "partisan advertising" by being critical of the government, which is a violation of B.C. election laws.
The WCWC has defended the paper, arguing that it doesnt specifically mention any political parties until the last page, where links are provided for all parties. However, the paper does highlight five environmental issues, the governments record on those issues, and suggest solutions.
Responding to what they see as censorship, the WCWC vowed to continue distributing the newspaper.
"Weve been publishing our little four-page educational report newspapers regularly for 24 years now," said Joe Foy, the WCWC national campaign co-ordinator. "Over those two and a half decades, we have suggested ways to safeguard B.C.s environment and sometimes that means being critical of the environmental record of the various governments whove been in power."
The letter from Elections B.C. said the group would have to cease distribution between April 19 and May 17, or register the paper with Elections B.C. as campaign material.
"We consulted our lawyer and received an opinion from him that our publication is non-partisan and therefore does not need to be registered as election advertising," said Foy. "As an organization we have never broken the law. This is a non-partisan educational report that highlights issues, not political parties. We have chosen to stand our ground because we believe the public has a right to read our point of view regarding environmental protection issues in B.C.
The five areas the WCWC suggests environmental policy could be improved are increasing lands in the park system, increasing funding and staffing for parks, enacting endangered species legislation, removing open net salmon farms from the ocean and investing in transit rather than highway expansion.