Pro-choice protesters who gathered outside Kelowna City Hall this week to voice their opposition to a proclamation issued for Protect Human Life Week say they are considering launching a complaint with B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
Spokeswoman Dianne Varga, who described herself as an abortion rights activist, said a meeting will be held today with two legal groups and another organization to discuss a possible human rights complaint against Kelowna Walter Gray because he refused to rescind the proclamation.
Varga said she was representing the Abortion Right Coalition of Canada, the group that demanded Gray rescind the proclamation. The group says the city has a duty to uphold the law and abortion is legal in Canada. The proclamation also goes against the city’s duty to “foster a community culture that respects women’s rights and freedoms,” says the coalition.
Gray, who ran afoul of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in 2000 when he changed the wording of a proclamation for Gay Pride Day, said he felt it would be discriminatory to rescind the proclamation because its the city’s policy that any group that asks for a proclamation can get one as long as it does not espouse violence, discrimination, political views or is of a commercial nature.
And he reiterated his position that issuing the proclamation is not an indication of support for any group or an indication of his personal views.
So far this year, the city has been asked for, and issued 47 proclamations, covering a myriad of subjects including elder abuse awareness, immunizations, quilt and fibre arts, missing children, kidney disease, gay pride, plumbing, parental alienation and even honey bees.
The Protect Human Life Week proclamation was issued at the request of Kelowna Right To Life, a local anti-abortion organization. Gray said he consulted his councillors before agreeing to the request and they were unanimous in feeling he should issue it.
“It’s basically a case of all or none,” said Gray.
When the mayor refused to rescind the proclamation, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada announced its local members would picket in front of Kelowna City Hall every day this week—which is Protect Human Life Week in the city.
On Monday, six pro-choice protesters got into an altercation with the executive director of Kelowna Right To Life, Marlon Bartram, after several took offence to him filming their public protest. One woman demanded he stop filming her and pushed his camera away and held it down momentarily.
On Wednesday, the six protesters were back outside city hall. Varga said they planned to be there all afternoon because a vote was scheduled in the House of Commons in Ottawa that afternoon on a Conservative MP private member’s bill calling for the formation of a committee to study possible changes to the Criminal Code to protect a fetus. Pro-choice advocates feel that move would be a backdoor way to re-open the abortion debate in Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he would not support the motion because his government has said it has no intention of reopening the abortion debate. As expected, the motion was defeated.
Canada currently does not have any law regulating abortion. In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s abortion law as unconstitutional.
In B.C., abortion is a medically funded and provided health care service and is available at most hospitals, including Kelowna General Hospital.