The debate over abortion in Canada will end up on Kelowna City Hall’s doorstep next week-literally.
After failing to convince Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray to rescind his proclamation for Protect Human Life Week next week, the national pro-choice group that demanded he do so has announced it plans to protest outside City Hall every day next week.
The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and organizers in Kelowna plan to protest from noon to 1 p.m. each weekday, with the exception of Wednesday, when they will protest from noon to 5 p.m.
The coalition is upset that Gray agreed to issue a proclamation that says, in part, “it is the intention of this proclamation to promote respect and protection to all human life, especially the infirm (sic), the aged, the handicapped, and the unborn.”
“The city’s proclamation policy explains that proclamations are issued to increase public awareness of the cause and/or to promote, support and help meet the activities and programs related to the organization seeking the proclamation,” said coalition’s Vancouver executive director Joyce Arthur.
“The mayor has claimed proclamations do not represent an endorsement by the city, but the city’s proclamation policy tells a different story. “
The coalition feels the Protect Human Life Week proclamation far exceeds the role of a neutral event announcement.
“Specifically, the city is undermining women’s equality rights and encouraging and endorsing a view that is contrary to Canadian and international law,” said Arthur.
And to bolster its claim, the coalition says it sent Gray a legal opinion that the city has a duty to uphold the rule of law, respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Supreme Court jurisprudence, and foster a community culture that respects women’s rights and freedoms.
Since the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s abortion law in 1988, this country does not have any law governing abortion and as a result it legal at all stages of a pregnancy.
Arthur said more than 600 people have signed an online petition against the Gray’s proclamation, with many leaving comments expressing their anger and frustration.
Gray has said issuing the proclamation for Kelowna Right To Life’s upcoming week does not support the group’s aims, it merely identifies an event.
And he has said he feels it would be discriminatory to rescind the proclamation, given that within the confines of legality and taste, all proclamations that are asked for are approved. The city has been issuing proclamations for the local pro-life group since 2008.
Kelowna activist Dianne Varga said the reason why protesters will gather for the entire afternoon on Sept. 26 is because many pro-choice supporters feel abortion rights are under fire across North America right now.
“Here in Canada, (Conservative MP) Stephen Woodworth’s motion (challenging the definition of a human being as set out in the Criminal Code) is going to be debated for its second hour on Sept. 21 and go to a vote in the House of Commons on Sept. 26,” said Varga.
“If Woodworth is successful in promoting his motion, it will reopen the abortion debate in this country and threaten to re-criminalize abortion. On Sept. 26 we will either be celebrating the outcome of the vote or strategizing on the next steps to take.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he will vote against Woodworth’s motion because his government has no intention of re-opening the abortion debate.