Saskatchewan

Controversy over anti-abortion flag flying in front of Prince Albert City Hall

Petition calls for removal of anti-abortion flag on City of Prince Albert flagpole calling it divisive and offensive.

Petition calls anti-abortion flag divisive

Lana Wilson and Emma Anderson hold up a sign in front of city hall protesting the City of Prince Albert's decision to raise a Celebrate Life Flag on Monday. (Kristen McEwen/Prince Albert Daily Herald)

A group of people in Prince Albert would like the anti-abortion flag flying in front of City Hall to be removed.

The flag was raised on Monday as part of Celebrate Life Week, organized by Prince Albert Right for Life and Jubilation Program. The flag, which depicts a cartoon fetus and includes the words "Please let me live," was approved by the city.

This is the seventh year the flag has flown, but it's the first year there has been a substantial public backlash. 

Prince Albert resident Lana Wilson started an online petition and collected hundreds of signatures over a couple of days demanding the anti-abortion flag be removed immediately and an official apology issued to the public. 

Wilson takes issues with the imagery on the flag saying the cartoon image is of a fully formed fetus that appears over 20 weeks gestation. 

She writes "This flag clearly aligns with global so-called "Pro-Life" and Anti-Abortion movements that attempt to restrict access to the legal medical procedure of abortion and infringe on the rights of pregnant persons to make decisions about their own bodies, reproductive status, and health care."
Sisters Melena and Tatiana Kawula hold up the Celebrate Life Week flag at City Hall on Monday. (Jason Kerr/Prince Albert Daily Herald)

Wilson and her supporters said it is inappropriate for municipal officials to endorse symbols of a movement that is working to restrict human rights. 

She said given historical and current political discourse in Canada, the flag should have been immediately recognized as controversial, divisive, and offensive to individuals who may require access - without shame, prejudice, or moral judgement- to legal medical abortions.

Wilson points to the City of Prince Albert's own flag policy which states: Flags of organizations which may be considered controversial, contentious or divisive within the community shall not be flown.

"Celebrate Life" one of many flags considered divisive

Mayor Greg Dionne said the Celebrate Life flag is only one of several flags flown in front of city hall that has received complaints. 

"We live in a tolerant, diverse society and everyone has the right to be heard. I would never try and gag their organization or any other organization so I'm surprised that they want us to do that," said Dionne. 

The mayor added the terms "controversial" and "divisive" are a broad terms and could be used as a reason to not fly several other flags throughout the year including the Pride flag and Treaty flag, which his office has received complaints about in the past.

He explained the only flags that would not be accepted by the city are ones from hate groups or racist groups.

"I'm not picking sides, as the governing body it's our job to try and bring the community together and you've got to hear both sides. You can not ever pick sides," said Dionne. 

The mayor said his office has received feedback on this particular flag from people both opposed to the flag and people saying "thank-you for letting people be heard."

Wilson will be delivering the petition to Prince Albert City Hall at noon on May 12, however the mayor said it's unlikely to make a difference.  

"Am I going to change the policy? No, because it's always up for interpretation."

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