A Canadian pro-abortion group compared the pro-life movement to “racists” and “white supremacists” to get Prince Albert’s mayor to take down a pro-life flag, but could only wring from Mayor Greg Dionne the concession to consult the British Columbia Human Rights Commission over the dispute.
Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, sent Dionne and Prince Albert’s city council a seven-page letter hinting at legal action and openly boasting that a similar threat led Kelowna city council to abandon its long tradition of allowing a pro-life banner across the city’s main street in 2013, during “life week.”
Now ARCC demands Prince Albert end its 20-year custom of flying a pro-life flag for Celebrate Life Week every May. The flag bears a cartoonish image of an unborn baby and the plea, “Please Let Me Live.”
According to ARCC, this innocent-seeming flag belonging to Prince Albert Right to Life, “challenges women’s equality and rights,” “flies in the face of Canadian and international law,” “angered and upset many citizens,” would “recriminalize abortion,” and “impose forced motherhood onto women, even at risk of their lives or health.”
The battle against the time-honoured pro-life flag drew a handful of protesters to city hall on two occasions, including two city councillors and a mayoral candidate in the next election, and sparked a petition of over 600 signatures. Many of these, as the mayor pointed out, were from out of town.
Arthur claims these demonstrations make the flag in violation of the city’s flag policy, which bans flags which are controversial or divisive.
Dionne has responded by arguing that if the city took the pro-life flag down for this reason, it would also have to take the gay pride flag down, since it too had drawn protests.
“We fly other flags that we receive complaints about, which the pro-choice group supports! And we’ve flown those flags. And we get lots of complaints about them,” Dionne told CBC TV. “Because anyone could phone up and say, well, that’s controversial and that’s divisive and offensive to me, take it down. ”
These don’t count as controversies, Arthur contends, because the people complaining about gay pride are “likely motivated by hatred or prejudice.” But homosexuality is legal, and so is abortion.
“But speaking out in opposition to homosexuality or abortion is also legal,” argues John Carpay of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. “If the city disregards its policy about controversy for one flag, it has to do so for all flags. Section 15 of the Charter guarantees people equal treatment before the law.”
Arthur argues the right to free speech doesn’t take precedence over the right of women to be free of the discriminatory objectives of Prince Albert Right to Life.
Carpay counters that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms “enshrines freedom of expression in Section 2(b). I wonder where in the Charter Joyce Arthur finds the right to silence people she disagrees with.”
As for the charge that the flag represents a discriminatory message, “There is no legal foundation to it,” says Carpay. “Discrimination is such a vague term. Anything could be discriminatory.”
Carpay warns that if Dionne cares about fundamental freedoms, “he should consult the Justice Centre, not the Human Rights Commission. Human rights commissions have not been any friend to basic freedoms.”
Neither the Mayor’s Office nor the Human Rights Commission could say whether the mayor had made a formal request for advice.
A longer version of this article originally appeared May 23 at LifeSiteNews and is used with permission.