Nova Scotia

New Glasgow police lacked 'awareness' of bubble-zone law at anti-abortion protest

Police in New Glasgow, N.S., say they will not lay charges following an investigation into whether an anti-abortion protest across from the town's hospital last October violated a law related to demonstrations near health facilities.

Protesters have been educated about the law, but won't be charged, say police

Anti-abortion protesters were stationed at the edge of the First Baptist Church in New Glasgow, N.S., and extended down the sidewalk across from the Aberdeen Hospital. (Submitted by Megan Boudreau)

Police in New Glasgow, N.S., say they will not lay charges following an investigation into whether an anti-abortion protest across from the town's hospital last October violated a law related to demonstrations near health facilities.

The town's police force also acknowledged this week there was a "lack of legislative awareness" on the part of New Glasgow Regional Police officers at the time concerning the so-called bubble-zone law that was enacted in March 2020, 19 months before the protest.

New Glasgow Regional Police said they chose to instead to educate protesters.

"The subjects of the complaint were educated on the Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Act and no further incidents have existed since this task was completed," Const. Ken MacDonald said in an email.

Under the law, anti-abortion protests are banned within a 50-metre radius of health-care centres, pharmacies and doctors' offices.

Protesters stationed across from hospital

Police launched an investigation after receiving a complaint about the protest held Oct. 3 by the Campaign Life Coalition on East River Road across from the Aberdeen Hospital as part of an annual day of "peaceful and prayerful pro-life witness."

CBC News has reached out to the coalition for comment. It's national headquarters said last fall it had received permission from police to hold the protest.

Megan Boudreau, who was behind a successful petition in early 2020 to restrict anti-abortion protests through legislation, said New Glasgow Regional Police told her an officer who was unaware of the law gave the protest the go-ahead.

Boudreau said she felt let down by the outcome of the investigation and worries that a similar demonstration might happen again.

"I'm really disappointed because this could have been used as an example," she said.

'It pains me to see'

Boudreau said she lodged the complaint with police after confronting the protesters, some of whom carried signs that said, "Abortion Hurts Women" and "Abortion Kills Babies."

She said signs like the ones at the protest spread fear and misinformation.

"It pains me to see because it's just inaccurate," said Boudreau. "[Abortion] doesn't actually hurt women. It can actually make women's lives better, having access, safe access to abortions, so it's just misinformation that they're spreading."

Boudreau said attending anti-abortion demonstrations as a counter-protester is stressful, but she won't stop trying to make a difference in the lives of people affected by anti-abortion rhetoric.

"People have messaged me about how important [it is] me standing there with a big, pink, Bristol board billboard sign that says, 'I support your choice and I love you no matter what,'" she said.

"[It] makes a big difference for a lot of people. So that's why I do it."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Feleshia Chandler is a journalist based in Halifax. She loves helping people tell their stories and has interests in issues surrounding LGBTQ+ people as well as Black, Indigenous and people of colour. You can reach her at feleshia.chandler@cbc.ca.

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