On Oct. 2, the Association for Reformed Political Action had volunteers erect 100,000 small blue and pink flags representing the “approximately 100,000 preborn children terminated through abortion each year in Canada.”
But according to rules governing use of Parliament Hill, events are restricted to the main walkway between the Centennial Flame and the Peace Tower, and are prohibited from the strip of lawn along Wellington Street where the flags were placed. The rules also prohibit “fixtures” including planting anything in the ground. Regulations state: “Affixing, hanging or attaching any item to the buildings, grounds, walkways, pillars, statues, monuments, trees, or other structures, or piercing the ground within the Hill Precinct, is prohibited.”
The flag display was initially rejected on July 11 by the interdepartmental committee that oversees use of Parliament Hill and is under the purview of Canadian Heritage and includes representatives of the House of Commons, Senate, RCMP, the Parliamentary Press Gallery and the Privy Council Office. They said a request to use the entire front lawn for the flag display would prevent the public from accessing the public space because it would “monopolize that space.”
ARPA’s Andrew Schutten told the CBC that the panel was open to his suggestion that the display be limited to one part of the front lawn, specifically the space near the stone wall along Wellington. Despite Canadian Heritage’s rules against using the space or against fixtures “piercing the ground,” the panel, upon consultation with the National Capital Commission, agreed to ARPA’s request. “They concurred the flags would not cause any damage,” Canadian Heritage spokesman Tim Warmington said in an email to CBC News.
Volunteers began placing the flags at 7 am and had them removed before 5 pm the same day.
The CBC said the demonstration broke the rules according to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police document they obtained. “It seems that against usual practice permission has been granted to place the 100,000 irrigation flags on the ground for the day,” the CBC quoted an internal RCMP report on the event, with the Mounties citing an “ambiguity” in the rules.
Days after the Oct. 2 event, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair told the Ottawa Planned Parenthood, pro-life activists received “special permission” for its demonstration. “This is quite clearly a case where the rules were bent,” he said. “Mr. Harper is always saying he’s not going to try to get back into the abortion debate. But this clearly was a political statement to allow this group to squat that much territory on Parliament Hill.”
Marisa Monnin, spokeswoman for Heritage Minister Shelly Glover, said the decision was made independent of the government.