After weeks of concern and outrage across London, Ont., over graphic anti-abortion flyers and posters distributed and displayed across the city — and over the lack of potential recourse through existing bylaws — a newly-formed group is preparing to hit the steps of city hall to call for action.
The Viewer Discretion Legislation Coalition (VDLC), formed Oct. 6 by Katie Dean and Mark Konrad, says its members will gather outside of 300 Dufferin Ave. on Wednesday morning to officially announce their campaign against the group behind the disturbing images, the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR).
Once gathered at city hall, VDLC says members will share stories about how these graphic images have impacted them.
The VDLC is also urging Londoners to email their city councillors to change the city’s bylaws surrounding distributing flyers and pamphlets that contain graphic images.
It’s also encouraging people across Ontario to sign a petition from London North Centre NDP MPP Terence Kernaghan, which calls on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario (LAO) “to support calls for an injunction based on the need to prevent a public nuisance,” or if that’s not possible, to “develop and bring forward legislation to prohibit the use of such graphic imagery.”
Dean, who is also business manager of Jim Dean Law and managing director of Hamilton Road Legal Centre, says that while Wednesday’s event could be described as a kickoff event, VDLC has already begun work behind the scenes.
“We have been working behind the scenes on the street level by doing counter-protests against this group when they show up at these intersections. We’ve been trying to cover their pamphlets with our own warning letters to homeowners, but obviously we can’t be everywhere at once,” she said.
“Tomorrow is the kickoff. We’re asking Londoners to make their voices heard, basically. We’re going to hear from some women who have been affected deeply by these pamphlets. People who have experienced pregnancy loss and have had triggers. There’s a lot of people affected right now in our community, not just children, but women as well.”
Dean also said that their focus is on the content of the pamphlets and posters.
“Can you imagine MADD Canada putting images of dead bodies under ads saying ‘don’t drink and drive’? We don’t do that in our society. That’s just disrespectful on on many levels. And it’s the same thing, as far as I’m concerned, with regard to these images. You just don’t do it. It’s wrong.”
In September, Global News heard from several residents in the Old East Village community, which was among the first to receive the flyers from CCBR as it began its campaign in London alongside London Against Abortion.
At that time, many residents spoke about how the pamphlets brought back traumatic memories for them or prompted difficult conversations with very young children.
“I had a miscarriage two years ago at 12 weeks,” Old East Village resident Annessa Hamblin told Global News in September.
“And when you open it up, there is like the pictures of a baby at 10 weeks. So, it’s just very upsetting. Very graphic.”
Another resident, Kelly Taylor, said she had to react quickly to keep her six-year-old son from seeing it when they went to grab the mail, but she had heard from other people who weren’t able to act so fast.
“There is a mom that had a six-year-old girl and she was like five months pregnant, so the little kid knew what it was and she saw it,” she said.
“Another mom said it was like a Halloween joke, to kind of pass it off.”
CCBR, meanwhile, confirmed to Global News in September and in early October that it was behind the postcards delivered in east London and throughout southwestern Ontario.
CCBR eastern outreach director Blaise Alleyne previously confirmed to Global News that “our team is doing public outreach in London and throughout southwestern Ontario to show that abortion is an act of violence that kills an innocent human being, and to make the case that all human beings deserve human rights.”
In a brief statement sent to Global News on Sept. 21, the City of London’s head bylaw officer, Orest Katolyk, stated: “we are aware that a number of Londoners have expressed concern about content recently distributed on flyers. The City of London does not have any bylaws that regulate the distribution of flyers.”