Canada’s national pro-life, pro-family lobbying group launched a petition in August asking Ontario Premier Doug Ford to drop Bill 163, which came into effect February. The bill prohibits all pro-life witness, including showing “disapproval” of abortion, within 50 meters of Ontario’s eight abortion centers. It also allows hospitals and pharmacies to apply for zones of up to 150 meters in which all pro-life witness is banned.
Elected in a PC landslide in June, Ford “has given us fresh hope his administration may have the moral courage to repeal Kathleen Wynne’s unconstitutional ban on pro-life expression near abortion facilities,” Campaign Life Coalition vice president Jeff Gunnarson said in an email to supporters.
Premier Ford certainly appears unafraid to take on the status quo, with his government now in a firestorm over using the “notwithstanding” clause to nullify a judge’s ruling that the Tory bill cutting the size of Toronto city council was unconstitutional.
Ford has also acted on his promise to uphold free speech. He announced in August that Ontario colleges and universities must have free speech policies in place by January 2019 or face funding cuts. He also directed institutions of higher learning to withhold money from students’ unions that did not do likewise.
It’s clear from this the Ford government “places a high value on our constitutional right to freedom of speech,” Gunnarson observed.
Moreover, Ford himself said during his PC Party leadership campaign he “disagrees with the Liberal censorship legislation, Bill 163, on the basis of free speech,” Gunnarson recalled. “Let’s encourage Premier Ford to keep driving the free speech train to its next stop,” said Gunnarson, “and repeal Bill 163, the Liberal censorship law.”
Ford’s office did not return requests for comment from LifeSiteNews. However, the Catholic Registerreported that a spokesperson for Lisa Macleod, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, said the official “supports the bubble zone.” That’s hardly surprising, given Macleod spoke in support of the bill on behalf of the PC Party, then under leader Patrick Brown, during October’s truncated debate on the legislation.
Archbishop of Ottawa Terrence Prendergast blasted the three parties at the time, which agreed to fast-track the bill, for passing a “draconian” law. Only one MPP — former Trillium Party MPP Jack MacLaren — voted against it. “How free is our province if advocates for its most vulnerable are literally denied access to the public square?” Prendergast wrote in the Ottawa Sun. “Everyone who supports free speech should abhor this law” regardless of their view on abortion, wrote the archbishop. “All freedoms are threatened when the state mutes selected opinions about a pressing social and moral issue.”
Campaign Life Coalition condemned Bill 163 not only for violating the Charter right to free speech, but for harming women by denying them access to information and alternatives to abortion offered by sidewalk counsellors.
The one person charged under the bill to date, longtime pro-life advocate Cy Winter, was holding a sign regarding his Charter right to free speech when Ottawa police arrested him Feb. 7 and 9. Winter, 70, died a month later following heart surgery before he could have his day in court.
This article originally appeared Sept. 14 at LifeSiteNews.com and is used with permission.