To the editor:
Mayor Walter Gray’s refusal to rescind the Protect Human Life Week proclamation is based on misperceptions and unfounded fears.
We, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, have sent the mayor a second letter reiterating our request that the proclamation be immediately revoked.
By issuing the proclamation, the city and the mayor create a public perception that they do indeed endorse the views of the Kelowna Right to Life Society (KRLS).
But it goes much further than mere perception. The city’s policy on proclamations states that they are issued to “increase public awareness” of the cause “and/or to promote” and “support” activities and programs related to the organization seeking the proclamation.
Further, proclamations are not just neutral event announcements because they are “intended to help meet the objectives or causes and activities” related to the proclamation.
This constitutes clear encouragement and endorsement by the city of any proclamation issued.
Such support would be further reinforced if the mayor or a deputy mayor participates in the event advertised by the proclamation, as sometimes occurs.
This proclamation espouses discrimination against women and undermines their equality rights because it refers to “respect and protection” for the “unborn,” signifying the KRLS belief that abortion should be prohibited and women forced to carry all pregnancies to term regardless of circumstance.
This contradicts the city’s prepared statement as quoted by the Capital News, asserting that it may proclaim an opposing point of view as long as it “does not espouse racism, discrimination, violence, hatred or political organizations.”
The statement also said that proclamations “are issued…to promote a climate of understanding and mutual respect where all are equal in dignity and rights.”
But the proclamation disrespects and excludes the one-third of Canadian women who have abortions.
Likewise, the KRLS’s objectives and activities do not “benefit the community as a whole” as the city’s policy requires, plus it is divisive.
The mayor has strong justifiable grounds on which to refuse and revoke the proclamation. According to a legal opinion from Westcoast LEAF (www.westcoastleaf.org), the city has a duty to uphold the rule of law, respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Supreme Count jurisprudence, and foster a community culture that respects women’s rights and freedoms.
The mayor is therefore obligated to refuse proclamations that oppose these values, and the KRLS has no grounds to launch a human rights complaint.
Other arguments advanced by the KRLS, as well as in the letter to the mayor signed by “We Need a Law” and various anti-choice signatories, are either ad hominem, inaccurate, or ideological.
Unlike anti-abortion groups, we want everyone to have the right to decide for themselves whether and when to have children, and how many.
Also, we are not censoring or stopping anyone in Kelowna or elsewhere from holding or expressing their own opinion on these issues.
We are simply pointing out that it is wrong and inappropriate for the City of Kelowna, as a government body, to publicly endorse a view that is directly contrary to Canadian and international law.
Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada