Obscenities on Vehicles

Three MonkeysEvery so often I get asked to write about something that makes me pause and think for a moment. This article is one of those as the reader asked "Could you clarify what the law is in BC regarding offensive words, statements, illustrations etc. on vehicles in use on public roads? For example, I recently saw a truck advising anyone interested that the driver masturbates. Maybe there are no limits these days?"

I suppose that the most important point to examine is how do we determine what is obscene? The Supreme Court of Canada has said that indecent criminal conduct [or obscenity] will be established where the Crown proves beyond a reasonable doubt the following two requirements:

  1. That, by its nature, the conduct at issue causes harm or presents a significant risk of harm to individuals or society in a way that undermines or threatens to undermine a value reflected in and thus formally endorsed through the Constitution or similar fundamental laws
  2. That the harm or risk of harm is of a degree that is incompatible with the proper functioning of society.

While we both may justifiably think that what you observed is in poor taste and the vehicle owner should not be able to do this sort of thing, it would never meet the criminal definition of obscene. There are no motor vehicle laws or bylaws that could be used in place of a criminal charge either. Since it is not far off of some prime time television content, we will just have to choose to ignore it.

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Submitted by E-mail

If the laws of the land allow Rob Ford (ironically a major car name) to utter all types of profanities and sexual innuendo on all venues of media, then they certainly will not be used to prosecute someone with distasteful signs or objects on their vehicle.

There are trucks with the large moose testicles trailing the bumper. I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean other than “the driver of this truck is an insensitive redneck”.

It is a sad commentary that people whether it be T-shirts or bumper stickers are more than willing to graphically illustrate to the world that they are crude and distasteful and proud of it.

As you write there is not a definition of law that prohibits the distasteful  innuendo and as a society it seems we have become accepting of almost all types of comments or graphic illustrations.

Sad really, I prefer the days where there was a little more thought of others and family decency but i suppose that makes me both a dinosaur and overly conservative.


To me, the display speaks volumes that the driver/owner is self identifying as a sex offender.  Speaks volumes to his character.  I find it vulgar and beyond distasteful but I too suppose my age is obvious as I witness the serious decline in decency, kindness and thoughtfulness in today’s society.  It’s appears to me, it’s all about the “shock” value.  Morales, values and ethics...... do they even teach those anymore? 

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