Bylaw to stop graphic anti-abortion flyers criticized for having no teeth
Anti-abortion flyers containing graphic images sparked outrage after they were dropped into Londoners’ mailboxes last fall.
Now City Hall’s proposed response is being called ineffective.
In a report to the Community and Protective Services Committee (CAPS), the city solicitor proposes a draft bylaw for unaddressed flyers that gives homeowners the ability to post a clearly visible sign labeled ‘no junk mail’ or ‘no flyers’ on their mailbox.
However, the report states, “the draft bylaw does not establish penalties for failing to comply, taking (City of) Ottawa’s approach of voluntary compliance.”
“Voluntary adherence to a bylaw, we know that isn’t going to be effective,” asserts Deanna Ronson, who sent a petition to city hall last year about the use of graphic images in anti-abortion leaflets and signs. “I believe it falls quite a bit short of what we were initially asking for.”
The decision not to include penalties for non-compliance may be explained in an accompanying confidential legal report that the committee will discuss behind closed doors.
Last November, city council asked staff to examine what other cities are doing to prevent graphic flyers from being dropped into mail boxes.
At the time, Councillor Shawn Lewis sought to temper public expectations, “The response may come back that we don’t have a good solution.”
But Ronson believes the potential trauma caused by the flyers demands a stronger response.
“I notice a lot of passing the buck here,” she explains. “The municipality doesn’t want to deal with it, so they pass it on to the federal government. The federal government didn’t want to do anything about this either. They wanted the municipality to rule on it.”
The flyers were prepared and distributed by the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR).
Blaise Alleyne, Eastern Outreach Director at CCBR tells CTV News in a statement, “We exercise our Charter rights in compliance with local bylaws, and may challenge bylaws which are unconstitutional — as our message is urgent and can make the difference between life and death for many children.”
The draft bylaw will be discussed at city hall by the CAPS Committee at its Sept. 21 meeting.