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London, Ont., group seeks legislative changes in response to graphic anti-abortion flyers

Members of Viewer Discretion Legislation Coalition (VDLC) gathered at a rally outside City Hall on Oct 28, 2020. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

A London-based group has found the support of a local MP and MPP in their effort to regulate the display and distribution of graphic anti-abortion material.

Two petitions have been spearheaded by the Viewer Discretion Legislation Coalition (VDLC) calling on both the provincial and federal governments to implement changes when it comes to graphic anti-abortion publications and signage.

Founded on Oct. 6 by Katie Dean and Mark Konrad, VDLC came as a direct response to the Calgary-based Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR), an anti-abortion group that has been delivering flyers and pamphlets with graphic images of dead fetuses to London homes, as well as displaying them on street corners, in partnership with a local group, London Against Abortion.

The CCBR has engaged in similar actions elsewhere over the years, including in Brampton, Calgary, Peel, and Winnipeg.

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Read more: Oct. 28, 2020 — Londoners rally outside city hall against graphic anti-abortion images, flyers

The VDLC said its goal is to prevent the graphic anti-abortion images from being seen by children and vulnerable people such as those who have been through pregnancy-related trauma.

The petitions have garnered the support of London North Centre NDP MPP Terence Kernaghan and London—Fanshawe NDP MP Lindsay Mathyssen.

The group is petitioning the Ontario legislature to support calls for an injunction “based on the need to prevent a public nuisance.” Should an injunction not be possible, the petition is calling on Queen’s Park to bring forward legislation banning the use of such imagery on flyers and placards.

The federal petition, meanwhile, calls for legislation to be amended or created that would set limits on what imagery and content can be used in a public protest or demonstration, and to amend or create legislation “regarding if, and how graphic imagery can be delivered to homes across the country.”

This change would require that such pamphlets be put in envelopes with a “Viewer Discretion” warning before opening.

Read more: London city council approves motion to explore bylaws for restricting distribution of graphic flyers

“We can only do the best we can do. If we fail in the end, at least we did everything we could,” Dean said in an interview Tuesday with 980 CFPL’s Jess Brady.

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“We need everybody, everybody’s voice is really important, and we need everybody’s signatures on the petitions because this is going to continue happening. It’s been going on in Canada for well over a decade, and I know that many communities across the country are tired of it.”

The CCBR has implied that the ends justify the means, telling Global News in late September that “by showing photos of healthy pre-born children before abortion and photos of children who have been decapitated, dismembered or disemboweled by abortion, we aim to make abortion unthinkable in order to save children’s lives and spare women the trauma of abortion.”

The graphic pamphlets and street corner displays have elicited strong reaction from the community and led to action by city hall, which has been fielding complaints about the images.

Some Londoners have shared personal stories of how the pamphlets, which claim to show images of fetuses at 10 weeks and 20 weeks, brought back traumatic memories for them or prompted difficult conversations with very young children.

On Nov. 10, not long after the VDLC staged a rally outside of city hall on the issue, city council endorsed a motion calling on city staff to look at options to address “community concerns around graphic unsolicited flyer deliveries to residential properties.”

The plan is to include legal advice in the report when it reports back to council.

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— With files from Jacquelyn LeBel and Kelly Wang

Read more: Anti-abortion ads pulled in 2018 are back on London, Ont. buses following settlement

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