Following a letter from a national pro-choice organization to Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray urging him to rescind a proclamation he issued for Protect Human Life Week later this month, a national pro-life group has weighed in with letter of its own to Gray.
Weneedalaw.ca, which describes itself as a national campaign with a goal to create a groundswell of support for federal abortion legislation, has written to the mayor asking him to not rescind the proclamation and labelling the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada an “extremist” group. It also calls pro-choice groups bullies.
“Extremist groups such as the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada ought to be ashamed of themselves for their attempts to bully others into adopting their ideology,” says the letter, which is signed by representatives of 20 pro-life groups across Canada, including former Kelowna right To Life spokesman Ted Gerk.
Gray said earlier this week that despite the call from the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, he had not intention of rescinding the proclamation. He said to do so would be discrimination against Kelowna Right to Life.
The abortion rights coalition’s call came after the city dropped its policy of flying community group’s flags over city hall to coincide with local events. That move was made amid controversy over the fact the city as considering flying a Kelowna Right To Life Society flag in conjunction with Protect Human Life Week at the end of September.
The chairwoman of Kelowna Pro-Choice, Ruth Mellor, said the push to have the latest pro-life proclamation rescinded stemmed from the recent flag flap.
According to the city, the proclamation is the fifth in a row for the local pro-life group by a Kelowna’s mayor since 2008. Both Gray and his predecessor Sharon Shepherd, who also issued pro-life proclamations, both have said city proclamations do not indicated support for the event of group in question but are merely an announcement to the community.
Mellor said the local pro-choice society has not asked, and has no plans to ask, for a proclamation for a pro-choice event, day or week. But she said opposition to previous pro-life proclamations was expressed privately to Shepherd when she was mayor.
Given Gray’s trouble with a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal over proclamations in the late 1990’s, the city feels that it has to issue proclamations for any group that asks for one as long as it is not espousing racism, discrimination, violence, hatred or is for a political organization.
In its letter to Gray, signed by representatives of, and individuals associated with, pro-choice groups across Canada, APCC executive director Joyce Arthur accused the city of disregarding women’s rights and making women feel disrespected and intimidated by issuing the proclamation.
““Protect Human Life Week” is deeply offensive and upsetting to many people in Kelowna and across Canada, particularly women who have had or who are considering an abortion,” she wrote.
“Although the city has issued this same proclamation in years past, it was never appropriate to do so because of its disregard for and opposition to established human rights under the law, and because it leads the city to improperly intrude into matters of federal or provincial law.”
But in its letter to Gray, Weneedalaw.ca says there are many in the city who do not feel offended by the mayor’s action.
“The fact that Joyce Arthur, executive director of Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and numerous other groups felt compelled to blast this proclamation speaks volumes to the extremist position taken by some when it comes to the sensitive topic of life,” says the pro-life group in its letter.
“Be assured that Protect Human Life Week is entirely appropriate and we express our unequivocal support for your right as mayor to issue the proclamation declaring the above mentioned dates.”
And the pro-life letter chastises the abortion rights coalition for even asking that for the proclamation be rescinded.
“All Canadians, including the residents of Kelowna, should be free to make up their own minds on when life should be protected. The efforts taken by the supposedly pro-choice (group) to pre-empt freedom of thought need to be downplayed as they are nothing short of school-yard tactics. We also question the strength of views that need to be enforced by censorship.
“Canada has long been a nation which prides itself on a high standard of human rights, including the right to express oneself freely.”