New law needed to force down abortion banners: councillor

Coun. Terry Whitehead wants a new bylaw that would force the removal of graphic anti-abortion banners hanging from the Lincoln Alexander Parkway.
The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform has attached this banner to overpasses on the Linc since September. One councillor wants to establish at least one bylaw to force their removal. (Lindsay Tompkins)

For about two months, protesters have hung graphic anti-abortion banners from Lincoln Alexander Parkway overpasses. Now a Mountain councillor wants the city to create new bylaws to stop it.

Coun. Terry Whitehead is working with city legal staff to draft a pair of motions. One would establish a bylaw prohibiting banners from being hung from highway overpasses. The other will deal with the type of images that can be displayed on banners.

On Monday, a car crashed under where the banner hung on the Linc.

Councillors have gotten hundreds of calls about the banners, said the Ward 8 councillor. They’re distracting and upsetting, and he wants them gone. 

“It’s not taking a position,” he said. “I want to make that clear.”

But “when you’re free-hanging banners over an expressway with high speeds, I think it is a risk, and I think our role as a council is to ensure we mitigate that risk as much as possible.”

Whitehead wants to work with the federal government on the issue. He’s even talking to a pro-choice organization that can lend some knowledge of how to get rid of the banners, adding that he has no position on the abortion issue.

Whitehead expects to formally give notice of his motions at a general issues committee meeting later this month.

He worries about kids seeing the images, he said.

“I want to make sure we’re not desensitizing or impacting our children, and the nature of this campaign is certainly exposing them to very graphic images,” he said.

Protesters from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform are not breaking any federal, provincial or municipal laws by hanging the banners, said Const. Debbie McGreal-Dinnig of Hamilton Police Services on Nov. 4.

“They are exercising their freedom of speech, which is set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for all Canadians.”

Stephanie Gray, co-founder of the group, told CBC Hamilton earlier this fall that the banners will continue.

“Our philosophy is as long as children are being killed, the evidence will be brought to people's attention.”

Coun. Scott Duvall said the city hoped to use its sign bylaw to stop the group, but demonstrators are attaching the banner to their bodies.

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