Today’s announcement by Ontario’s Attorney General regarding “safe zone legislation” is an affront to democracy and a violation of every Canadian’s fundamental freedom of expression.
“Freedom of speech and expression is listed as a ‘fundamental freedom’ in section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Anna Nienhuis, spokesperson for WeNeedaLaw.ca. “It is put there because the Charter drafters realized the temptation always exists by those in civil authority to use their power to suppress ideas they don’t appreciate.”
Freedom of speech and expression are rights guaranteed in the Charter. The so-called “woman’s right to choose” is not in any Charter or law. It is a fiction. Our Supreme Court justices went out of their way in the Morgentaler decision to clarify that Parliament has the ability, and even the duty, to protect foetal rights.
“I find it ignorant for the Attorney General of Ontario to suggest that abortion is a right. He should know better, and he has definitely crossed a line by suggesting that this fabricated right can undermine fundamental freedoms,” stated Nienhuis.
The constitutional legitimacy of the proposed legislation is also in doubt, says ARPA Canada’s Legal Counsel, John Sikkema: “Obviously, it limits freedom of expression. The government has no justification for this. It has only unsubstantiated allegations of harassment. Real harassment should of course be prosecuted. But Ontario’s proposed law is also questionable on federalism grounds, because provinces cannot enact their own versions of crimes such as harassment and intimidation. Criminal law is Parliament’s jurisdiction. Ontario’s proposed law basically presumes anyone communicating a pro-life message near an abortion facility or to an abortion provider is committing harassment, no matter how peacefully they express themselves.”
Ironically, in April of this year, a pro-choice protest was organized in an attempt to pressure the city of Ottawa into taking action against abortion clinic protestors. While they clearly value their right to protest, they are asking the civil government to take steps to limit the rights of protestors who have opinions they don’t like.
“Abortion clinics exist for profit. They want their services to seem appealing and safe, and they want women to use their services or advise others to. They do not want protestors or counsellors who might deter clients, and they do not want to be prompted to consider the morality of their work on a daily basis. These things do not, however, give them a right to enact zones around their clinics where conflicting opinions are not allowed. We all encounter conflicting opinions on a daily basis – at work, at school, in the news, even in our families. We deal with it. Are women seeking abortion somehow weaker, or do we place less responsibility on them to consider the opinions of others? If so, we need to stop,” says Nienhuis.