First person arrested under Ontario’s bubble zone law dies
Cyril Winter, 70, passed away March 9 at the Ottawa Heart Center following complications from stenting surgery to fix several coronary arteries. Hours before he passed away, Winter wrote on Facebook: “Stent day but no guarantee because I could get bumped by emergencies,” adding: “reassuring to know that I am not an emergency – read: ‘not critical.’ ‘Love is patient…’ Come Lord Jesus. Cy.”
Winter, a local fixture in pro-life witnessing at the Morgentaler Clinic on Bank Street in the nation’s capital, was the first person arrested under Ontario’s Safe Access to Abortion Services Act. He was scheduled to appear in court on March 23.
The Safe Access act bans all pro-life witness within 50 meters of Ontario’s eight abortion mills, and within 150 meters of hospitals and pharmacies on request.
Winter was charged with eight offenses under the act despite gaining assurances that his signs did not contravene the law.
Winter regularly picketed the Morgentaler abortuary with signs that included images of aborted preborn babies and messages such as, “Abortion is murder in the womb. Choose God’s love. Don’t kill your baby today.” But in February he had signs drawing attention to the fact that Charter rights were violated by the bubble zone. On Feb. 2, he was arrested after carrying a sign that said, “Freedom of Expression and Religion. No Censorship,” while within the zone. He was arrested again February 9 while holding a sign that read: “God save our Charter rights.”
The law prohibits pro-life messages, including offers of alternatives to abortion-minded mothers; however, Winter said that he met with police officers who said focusing on free speech rights would not run afoul of the law. Police claim that Winter was taking pictures of women entering the abortuary, thus intimidating them. The law outlaws the taking of photographs or video around abortion facilities. Winter denied the allegation.
Winter told friends he was looking forward to having his day in court to fight the charges and challenge the law.
Campaign Life Coalition’s Debbie Duval said that Winter witnessed against abortion regularly, regardless of the weather. Frank Barrett, another area pro-lifer, said he encouraged Winter to picket with him on the other side of the street, “but Cy wanted to do that side of the street, near the door, and unfortunately, that’s why they went after him.”
Kelly Egan wrote in the Ottawa Citizen after Winter’s passing that “it might be argued that it was Winter’s persistent presence on upper Bank for four years that helped spark Ontario’s new law providing a safety zone around abortion clinics.”
Winter told another pro-life advocate, Donald Andre Bruneau, earlier this year that his witness saved at least eight children. He told Bruneau in an interview: “For sure, seven [mothers] came out within minutes to tell me they changed their mind, and many of them in tears, but all of them certainly very thoughtful and sober.” Winter said, “so the baby’s saved, and the soul is saved, the parents’ souls are saved, for now and hopefully forever, and the angels rejoice in heaven over it.”
He also said that for his pro-life efforts, people hit him, swore at him, and spit on him as they passed by.
Cyril Winter was the eighth of 12 children, and is survived by his ex-wife and a son. His brother Christopher told the Citizen: “He was a kind person. Never wished ill of anybody. He was true to his faith.”