Sex Party Sues Canada Post for Refusing to Deliver Mailer
The Sex Party, started by several activists in British Columbia last year, fielded three candidates in last year's provincial general election. It seeks federal registration and has no candidates in today's election, but officials wanted to inform voters about issues pertinent to the election.
According to a lawsuit filed Jan. 12 by the Sex Party, Canada Post refused to deliver a leaflet as unaddressed mail to residents in several cities and rural areas.
"We sought to distribute a tasteful, artistic, intelligent, respectful, informative and non-pornographic leaflet to voters in the federal contest, but Canada Post officials refuse to deliver as unaddressed mail any material -- regardless of its political or cultural value -- that has sexual content," party leader John Ince said. "We consider this unreasonable and unconstitutional interference in the political process by a government institution that has a duty to be politically impartial."
Canada Post spokesman John Caines confirmed that postal officials deemed the brochure unacceptable to deliver.
"If it was addressed mail, it would be in envelopes so it would be up to the recipient to decide whether they had a problem with it," he said. "This stuff is unaddressed ad mail. It's pretty graphic in our estimation, and something we don't think is proper, so we've denied to [deliver] it."
Caines could not comment on the lawsuit because he hasn't been served with it yet.
The folded, four-page leaflet explains the party's platform and features several images of sexually oriented art, though no nudity is shown. The fliers are generally handed out at trade shows and on the street. The Sex Party promotes a sex-positive culture, which includes changing Canada's education system, repealing sex-negative laws and regulations and supporting sex-positive community.
Ince said the party wanted to mail to people in areas where it thought its support would be the highest: those living in alternative artist colonies in rural areas and renters in apartment buildings in downtown urban areas ages 25-35. It was going to start with a small mailing in three or four locations in Canada's major cities and three or four rural areas. The party then might expand to mail hundreds of thousands of fliers, Ince said.
"Even though we are not registered, we have the right to participate as any other system or group, and we wanted to target people who were voting in the election and familiarize themselves with us," Ince said.
Ince said Canada Post told him it would deliver the flier if mailed in an envelope, but "that would triple the cost and reduce our audience by a third with our budget." Before postal officials can censor a legitimate political leaflet, they must show that it causes demonstrable harm or is illegal, he said, and Canada Post has no evidence to support that in this case.
"It is unacceptable they should penalize us like they don't with other political parties when there is nothing pornographic and there is nothing that would harm anyone," he said. "If this was hate material, then any media has an appropriate right to prohibit it, but this is not that, and nor has Canada Post ever alleged that."
Ince added that Canada Post's unaddressed mail program reaches almost every Canadian household, with an audience equivalent to that of the entire radio, television or newspaper industry.
"But unlike those industries in which advertisers have a wide range of choice, Canada Post has an almost total monopoly over unaddressed mail," he said. "It has exclusive access to over 5 million letter boxes in the nation. No other government agency so dominates a medium of such political importance."
Canada Post regulations give postal officials unfettered power to accept or reject any material as unaddressed ad mail, Ince said.
"They have absolute power without restriction to control the content of political communications delivered as unaddressed ad mail," he said. "If for any reason postal executives wanted to prohibit delivery of a pamphlet of the Conservative Party or [New Democratic Party], they have the power to do so."