Anti-abortion protesters in Hamilton are using a loophole in the city’s bylaws to hang graphic banners over the Linc.
Protesters from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical reform have been demonstrating in Hamilton for about a month. Some of those protests involve hanging a banner over the Linc with the slogan “abortion kills children” and a bloody photo of a fetus.
But protesters aren’t attaching the banner to any city property — instead, they’re tying the banner to their bodies and standing next to the edge of the overpass. That technicality ties the city’s hands, says Ward 7 Coun. Scott Duvall.
“We were hoping to get them on the sign by-law, but they are not hanging these signs on public property, they are attaching the signs to their bodies,” Duvall told CBC Hamilton.
“I have received many phone calls and emails on this. I have contacted our bylaw staff and they have stated to me there is nothing they can do.”
If city bylaw officers did intervene in a protest or demonstration, they don’t have the legal authority to demand identification, Duvall says.
“I have contacted our Legal department and they have indicated they have a right to demonstrate and have done nothing wrong,” Duvall said. “I have contacted the police department and they have indicated this is a well educated and professional group that is not violating the law.”
- READ MORE: CBC Hamilton's live chat with Stephanie Gray, of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform
Group hasn't done anything illegal, police say
“It is very frustrating. This has caused many traffic jams and residents are upset.”
Hamilton police are monitoring the protests, but say the group hasn’t done anything illegal.
“To date, there have been no violations federally, provincially or municipally committed by the demonstrators,” police superintendent Ken Weatherill told CBC Hamilton in an email.
“Hamilton police will continue to monitor the demonstrators and respond and apply the law as required,” he said.
The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform is an “educational pro-life organization,” says Stephanie Gray, they group’s co-founder and executive director.
She says the group is two years into an 18-year campaign to "convey the true horror" of abortion when "words are insufficient."
Gray says the images — which she describes as “graphic and disturbing” — are aimed to outrage people.
“We have found pictures to be effective in changing minds and saving lives, we know of women who have cancelled abortions based on our pictures,” she told CBC Hamilton.
“This isn’t ending any time soon,” she said. “Our philosophy is as long as children are being killed, the evidence will be brought to people's attention.”
Demonstrators from the CCBR have been busy in the last month. On top of the protests on the Linc, they have been going door to door and leaving graphic door hangers on Hamilton homes and staging demonstrations outside Hamilton schools.
Duvall says the pushback from the community on these demonstrations has been extensive, so he plans to keep on the issue.
“I am now contacting the chair of the police board Bernie Morelli to discuss this with the police services and have officers attend to these calls.”