Since last December, patrons of a Toronto institution have been harassed as they enter. The sidewalk outside is regularly picketed by protesters shouting “Murderer!” and “You’ve got blood on your hands!” at those within, many of whom are visibly rattled by the ordeal. The owners of this institution regularly call the police, but the right to assembly of these protesters is clearly protected by section 2a of the Charter and they shall not be infringed.
The institution in question, of course, is not an abortion clinic, but a meat-serving restaurant. And, quite obviously, the protestors are not pro-lifers – who, for decades, have made quiet, prayerful vigils the hallmark of the movement – but animal rights activists. These activists believe that, despite being legal, the butchering of mammals is tantamount to murder; in protesting this restaurant, they are following their conscience and exercising their rights to speech and assembly. But, unlike pro-lifers, they can exercise these rights freely and fully.
Coincidentally, as these protests were taking place, “bubble zones” were brought back to the same province. As of Feb. 1, it is now against Ontario law to “advise, persuade or inform” someone within a 150-metre perimeter of any abortion facility about the brutal facts of prenatal infanticide. The legislation even makes it illegal to “perform or attempt to perform an act of disapproval … concerning issues related to abortion services, by any means.” So, while the sacredness of animal life can be defended in public, and passionate advocates on both sides can act on their convictions, the same may not be said for pro-lifers in many provinces.
Why the double standard? Why, in one case, do protestors and patrons enjoy the full spectrum of public expression whereas, in the other, the state itself intervenes to suppress normal, democratic processes? This hypocritical contradiction ought to end, and we, tongue-firmly-in-cheek, could call upon provincial legislatures to apply the onerous rules which have been imposed upon pro-lifers across the board. Animal rights activists who picket restaurants should, after a warning, be fined and jailed, because meat-providers deserve protection and diners shouldn’t be shamed for accessing their services.
But, of course, animal rights activists will never be menaced in the way that pro-lifers currently are; the obvious double standard illustrated by recent restaurant demonstrations and frequent campus disruptions shows that the thumb of social liberalism rests on one side of the scales of Canadian justice. And so, the conscience rights of doctors, nurses, and summer-grant applicants and the democratic rights of pro-life citizens are all violated, in flagrant violation of Canada’s proudest legal traditions, to ensure that unborn children remain unprotected in law and undefended in public.
From a single error flows fallacies and contradictions of all kinds. To maintain the slaughter of unborn children, a parallel legal regime is emerging in our country, one that protects this moral outrage at all costs as Alberta may soon join British Columbia, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador as provinces that establish anti-free speech zones for pro-lifers. Now, advocates for animals enjoy more rights than the defenders of the unborn and, if bubble zones are any indication, further curtailments will follow. The question is: how many other rights will legislators violate to protect prenatal infanticide?
Goaded by a guilty conscience, what other legal means will they devise to suppress the truth and those who speak it? Only time will tell, but the lacerated, broken bodies of unborn children show us what is at stake – and what a culture in flight from the truth is capable of.