Waters: Mayor exercises right to paint herself into a corner

I don’t know if the local pro-choice society celebrates a week of choice or not. And if it does, I’ve never heard it ask Kelowna’s mayor to issue a proclamation.

I don’t know if the local pro-choice society celebrates a week of choice or not. And if it does, I’ve never heard it ask Kelowna’s mayor to issue a proclamation.

But if it does, Sharon Shepherd is going to have a hard time figuring out just what to say this year. That’s because she has already issued a proclamation for Right To Life Week that supports the “protection” of the unborn.

It’s not that the mayor can’t proclaim both weeks, it’s just that the wording of the Right to Life Week proclamation will make the city look like its contradicting itself if it supports a week defending a woman’s right to have an abortion.

The mayor quietly issued the Right to Life week proclamation last week and it reads, in part: “…it is the intention of this proclamation to promote respect and protection to all human life, especially the aged, the handicapped and the unborn.”

So, if the pro-choice folks come knocking and ask for a proclamation, what will it have to say to keep the city from looking like it is speaking, or rather proclaiming, out of both sides of its mouth?

If the city supports the protection of the unborn, how can it also support the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy?

This is the not the first time proclamations have tripped up a Kelowna mayor.

During his time as mayor, Walter Gray unilaterally changed a proclamation for Gay Pride Day in Kelowna to Gay Day and wound up on the losing side of a human rights tribunal complaint.

As a result, Gray stopped issuing proclamations all together. The practice did not return until shortly after Shepherd took over as mayor.

Municipalities are routinely asked to proclaim every sort of day, week and month. Normally, they are dealt with as a matter of course and nobody raises an eyebrow. But, depending on the subject, they can be a minefield of public controversy.

Response this newspaper has received to a story about the proclamation has shown support for both sides in the ever-contentious battle over abortion. But some opponents of the mayor’s action have bizarrely threatened boycotts of totally unrelated products simply because they are from Kelowna, as a protest.

That’s just wrong.

The mayor may want to give the proclamations she issues a little more thought next year if she is re-elected.

In the meantime, she should hope the pro-choicers don’t ask for a proclamation of their own.

Alistair Waters is the Capital News’ assistant editor.




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