There is scarcely an area in the world that is unaffected by one atrocity or another. Whether it is natural disasters, such as hurricane Arthur, which recently slammed into Atlantic Canada, or human-inflicted tragedy, as we can observe from the latest violent tension between Israel and Hamas, we are bombarded on a daily basis by images of violence, disaster, suffering, injustice and various other horrors experienced by real people all over the globe. We receive these images predominantly through the media; this is, after all, what they do — report news.
At times, the images we see are disturbing. The newspaper arrives on our doorstep with graphic depictions of bloodied children wandering streets with nowhere to go after a rocket has destroyed their home. A few days later, the local daily has a photo of body parts protruding from a pile of rubble after an earthquake has shattered a countryside. Not only are the media doing their job when they report this to us, but, by being confronted with a visual reminder of the many ills of this world, we are moved to do what we can to mitigate the disaster and suffering.
Do the images described above make us uncomfortable? Absolutely. Do they precipitate learning opportunities between parents and children? They sure do. The fact we are exposed to graphic images is a reality we have learned to expect. They are inescapable, and that is a good thing.
Apparently not so, though, for the City of Hamilton. Last month, council unanimously passed a motion calling upon the provincial and federal governments to enact legislation limiting the dissemination of images they felt should not be seen by residents of their city. The focus of their adopted motion is the graphic abortion flyers distributed by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR). The CCBR is simply doing what the mainstream media fails to do — bring to the public the images of an injustice that for too long have remained invisible.
Can you imagine if Hamilton’s approach was taken for other controversies of historical significance? What if images of the Rwandan genocide were banned from distribution? Or take the Civil Rights movement in the United States. The mistreatment of racial minorities might still be going on if the very disturbing images of lynchings and other crimes remained invisible.
The actions taken by the City of Hamilton are not only inconsistent with the historical and present-day use of disturbing images but also contravene Canadian jurisprudence. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of expression, and Canadian courts have maintained a vigorous protection of the dissemination of even offensive ideas long before the Charter was made law. Unfortunately, the City of Hamilton chooses to ignore these realities so that it can censor views it does not like.
Images of aborted preborn children will certainly make every Canadian with a conscience uncomfortable. That’s the point. When my children see them, I know I will have to share a teaching moment with them. I will have a similar conversation when they ask questions about the bloody child on the front page of the newspaper, or the gaunt and starving teenager from an underdeveloped nation in Africa, or after they have just learned about the Rwandan genocide in school or returned from a class trip to the Holocaust Education Centre. Do I at times get angry when injustices become visible? Certainly. But rather than focusing my anger on the messenger, I choose to focus it on those whose ideology allows for the injustice to occur in the first place.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must likewise be exposed, with all of the tension its exposing creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”
Canadian preborn children can be aborted at any stage of pregnancy and for any reason. This injustice needs to be exposed for all of us to see. History has shown that so long as an injustice remains invisible it will remain tolerable.
It’s time for Canada to get into line with the rest of the Western world and protect preborn children. In order for that to occur, the injustice of abortion needs to be made visible, as uncomfortable as that may be.