City investigating law to ban anti-abortion banners

Contentious anti-abortion banners on the Linc have prompted the city to investigate a new bylaw prohibiting banners on highway overpasses.
The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform has attached this banner to overpasses on the Linc since September. In response, the city is looking at establishing a law regarding banners on overpasses. (Lindsay Tompkins)

Contentious anti-abortion banners on the Linc have prompted the city to investigate a new bylaw prohibiting banners on highway overpasses.

City staff is preparing a report on a bylaw that would regulate the use of overpasses for displays of any kind. For months, anti-abortion protesters have hung graphic banners above the Lincoln Alexander Parkway depicting bloody aborted fetuses.

Coun. Terry Whitehead hopes the city can come up with a solid law that will prohibit such displays. He knows of one crash where the driver claims to have been distracted by the banners.

“Another individual told me that when the banner came down, she ducked,” the Ward 8 councillor said. “She momentarily took her eyes off the road and hit the breaks.”

The speed limit on most parts of the Linc is 90 km/h. At that speed, “I argue that it is a risk,” Whitehead said.

Protesters from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform began hanging the banners since September. Police say they aren’t breaking any federal, municipal or provincial laws by hanging the banners.

“They are exercising their freedom of speech, which is set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Const. Debbie McGreal-Dinning of Hamilton Police Service said earlier this month.

Whitehead hopes to change that, but it will depend on whether it’s legal.

“I’m asking public works and legal (staff) to take a look to see if we have safe grounds to presume banning anything,” he said.

Councillors have fielded many upset phone calls about the banners, Whitehead said

“Every time it happens, we have calls.”

Whitehead’s motion passed unanimously at a city council meeting Wednesday.

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