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City councillor seeks to restrict distribution of graphic anti-abortion flyers


A Calgary city councillor is pushing for restrictions around the door-to-door distribution of graphic anti-abortion flyers.

“I think it’s unacceptable to allow this image to continue to go into our communities and to our front doors on private property,” said Jennifer Wyness, councillor for Ward 2.

Wyness said she received a flyer depicting an aborted fetus on her doorstep a while back — an image she says is no different than pornography or gore.

“It was traumatizing,” she said.

Wyness said she has spoken to many of her constituents who are also upset by the material.

“I heard story after story of traumatization in my community,” she told CTV News.

“Parents had to engage in sex education conversations with young kids, four-year-olds, years before they were ready and kids had nightmares. Women and families in the community who had suffered pregnancy loss were re-traumatized.”

Wyness has filed a notice of motion calling for city staff to draft a bylaw that would require the graphic imagery to be concealed in an envelope and have a warning label.

“We’re not infringing on their right to communicate their message, we’re just saying the image by societal standards is unacceptable and traumatizing to our community,” Wyness said.

Aditi Loveridge, the founder and CEO of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support Centre in Calgary, said her nine-year-old child found a flyer.

“I can imagine that most parents would not know even where to begin or what the right word is because they themselves are probably very traumatized by what they just received,” she said.

Loveridge said stopping the flyers altogether is a better goal.

“Whether you personally have had an abortion or a termination for medical reasons or a miscarriage, these are just very traumatic images. I don’t know who they serve, honestly,” she said.

In 2016, the city amended its community standards bylaw to include a ban on commercial and non-commercial flyers from being placed at homes with a “no junk mail” sign.

In her motion, Wyness said the current regulations force residents to “choose between receiving no flyers or receiving all flyers, including those containing alleged images of aborted fetuses.”

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) has weighed in on anti-abortion speech issues before.

“If the government is not targeting particular harm that may be caused by graphic images but rather targeting viewpoints, that raises a more serious constitutional concern,” said Marty Moore, a lawyer with JCCF.

Moore also raised concern about whether the bylaw would be neutrally applied to all graphic images.

“Whether it’s the consequences of drunk driving, violence of war, the effects of starvation, these kinds of graphic realities of life, will this bylaw also serve to prevent the public from receiving information unvarnished in that fashion?” he said.

A similar bylaw with a fine of $350 was approved in London, Ont., earlier this year.

“There’s no more flyers being delivered in London. So, it’s really effective, it’s really good. People I think are respecting the law,” said Katie Dean, co-founder of Viewer Discretion Legislation Coalition.

“We need this to happen in more cities, especially Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver.”

Dean has been working with Wyness on the bylaw and is hopeful it will get passed.

“It’s going to be very important for Calgary to continue to lead this charge and help change the law because if each city does this, at least we can protect the people in those cities,” she said.

“This is not about pro-life or pro-choice. It’s about common human decency.”

A majority of council members have signed onto the notice of motion, meaning it will likely be approved when presented Thursday. Top Stories

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