London petition calls for bylaw changes over graphic anti-abortion flyers, signs

With over 2,600 signatures in a week, Pro-Choice London is hoping the city will listen when it requests bylaw changes to address a recent spate of graphic anti-abortion posters and flyers.

Deanna Ronson has been involved with the organization for just over a year and says the recent activity connected to the Calgary-based Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) is very different from the usual events and demonstrations in the city.

Read more: Old East Village residents furious as London City Hall struggles to address anti-abortion flyers

“Typically, we only have to respond to London Area Right to Life Association’s Life Chain and 40 Days of Life,” she told Global News, adding that the flyers distributed in the Old East Village in September and signs set up at major intersections in the city, like Richmond and Oxford streets, include extremely disturbing images of alleged aborted fetuses.

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“We’ve had reports of children being upset when they retrieved the mail and were subjected to these images. We’ve received countless messages from women who have recently lost a pregnancy (or multiple pregnancies) and have been re-traumatized by viewing these images,” Ronson said.

“We had one parent reach out to tell me that her four-year-old daughter saw one of the large billboards and asked her mom if that was a picture of a dead baby.”

CCBR previously confirmed to Global News that it was behind the postcards delivered in east London, in partnership with the local group, London Against Abortion.

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“Yes, our team is doing public outreach in London and throughout southwestern Ontario to show that abortion is an act of violence that kills an innocent human being, and to make the case that all human beings deserve human rights,” CCBR eastern outreach director Blaise Alleyne said.

Read more: Graphic anti-abortion posters spotted in Toronto — As a parent, what can you do? (2018)

Ronson said that “health-care is not an opinion; it’s a legal right in Canada.”

She also noted that while many residents she’s heard from “appreciate free speech,” they say the city “needs to do something to put an end” to the display and distribution of such graphic images.

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In a brief statement sent to Global News on Sept. 21, the City of London’s head bylaw officer, Orest Katolyk, stated: “we are aware that a number of Londoners have expressed concern about content recently distributed on flyers. The City of London does not have any bylaws that regulate the distribution of flyers.”

The petition from Pro-Choice London requests that the city implement “an amendment to an existing bylaw or a new bylaw that would ban the delivery of flyers to homes that have a ‘no flyer’ sign.”

“Calgary, Winnipeg and Ottawa already have bylaws prohibiting the delivery of unwanted flyers,” Ronson said.

The petition also calls for “an amendment to an existing bylaw that would state that the content of any signs, including temporary signs, must adhere to the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Pro-Choice London’s petition had a goal of 5,000 signatures.

Pro-Choice London also has a counter-protest planned on Oct. 4 in response to the national Life Chain event held annually, organized locally by the London Area Right to Life Association.

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