Press Release: Ontario Government censors one side of abortion debate
For immediate release from the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada
October 25, 2017
Ontario Government censors one side of abortion debate
Today the Ontario Liberals – with the help of all Opposition parties – passed Bill 163 by a vote of 86-1. This new law creates “safe access zones”, also known as bubble zones, around abortion providers, prohibiting the expression of any dissenting view on abortion.
“Censoring speech in certain areas, simply because you may not agree with that speech, is unconstitutional and violates free expression in the public square,” said Tabitha Ewert, a recent law graduate and articling student for the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada. Ewert presented to the Standing Committee on General Government during the one-day hearing on Bill 163. “In passing Bill 163, the Ontario government has opened themselves to further constitutional challenges in court.”
In June of this year, the Ontario government lost a case when ARPA Canada challenged their exemption of abortion statistics from Freedom of Information requests in court. The Ontario Superior Court ruled that this censoring of abortion statistics inappropriately infringed on freedom of expression as guaranteed by Section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, the judge ruled there was no evidence to suggest that such censorship was necessary today.
Anna Nienhuis, spokesperson for the We Need a Law campaign, was surprised to see this bubble zone legislation come so quickly on the heels of that loss in court. “Mere months later,” she said, “we see the government trying again to give abortion special consideration that no other medical intervention receives or even requests, again infringing on Section 2(b) Charter rights.”
The safe access zones are being introduced following allegations of harassment, such as spitting, by protestors outside Ottawa’s Morgentaler Clinic. “Attorney General Yasir Naqvi should be doing his job and focusing on prosecuting any actual acts of harassment by individuals,” stated Nienhuis, “not targeting all peaceful pro-life people as a group.”
“We do not ban protests on Parliament Hill for fear of making MPs uncomfortable when they come to work. We do not ask those who have lost their hair from chemotherapy to stay away from entrances to hospitals for fear of making new patients feel uncomfortable. We do not shut down bars if two people get into a brawl inside,” added Nienhuis. “To silence an entire group over the alleged criminal behaviour of one individual and to put personal discomfort above freedom of expression is unconstitutional and something no Canadian should support, knowing it could be their opinion that falls out of favour next.”
Nienhuis also argues that this move to silence conflicting views on abortion “paints women as fragile and indecisive, undermining any belief in the pro-choice message that abortion is empowering. Abortion clinics exist for profit, and blocking those willing to stand for life is easier than standing out there themselves to encourage and support women choosing abortion.”
“The Ontario government needs to stop making exceptions for abortion, and let the debate play out in the public. If they are so scared of dissenting opinions, they should consider why they lack the confidence to let their position speak for itself.”
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To read the decision of the Ontario Superior Court referred above, click here.
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