Nova Scotia moves to ban pro-life free speech outside abortion centers
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, March 5, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Nova Scotia is advancing a bill that targets pro-lifers protesting in front of abortion clinics.
The Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Act — Bill 242 was introduced by NDP Nova Scotia MLA Claudia Chender and has the support of the once pro-life Catholic premier of Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil. It passed second reading Wednesday and now awaits a committee review.
The law would ban any type of pro-life protest in an “access zone” against a patient or physician that “extends a distance of 50 metres from the boundaries of any parcel of land on which the facility is located.”
It will also bar photographing, videotaping, and audio recording of anyone within the “access zone,” which is defined as hospitals that provide abortions but could also extend to offices and even residences of those who perform abortions if “[t]he Governor in Council may, by regulation,” decide to do so.
Abortion is currently available in four hospital locations in Nova Scotia. If the Nova Scotia bill ultimately receives royal assent, it will join similar legislation in B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland.
Section 15 reads: “A police officer may arrest, without warrant, a person who the police officer believes on reasonable and probable grounds has committed or is committing an offence under this Act.”
This section is of grave concern for people’s freedoms, according to Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), which says the way this part is currently worded could mean that a simple phone call to police is all it would take to arrest someone protesting, violating his right to due process.
In anticipation of such legislation, Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) launched a petition against any type of law in Nova Scotia restricting the freedom of protest and speech and is concerned that such legislation leaves too much power to the courts and police.
“This draconian ‘bubble zone’ bill calls on the police and courts to do the bidding of leftist ideologues who want to stomp down the voices of conservative-minded citizens in Nova Scotia,” said David Cooke, CLC’s campaigns manager, in comments to LifeSiteNews today.
Cooke went onto say public spaces are constitutionally protected for anyone to use freely, adding, “For the liberals to step in and create anti–free speech zones in public spaces, where citizens may face arrest for being pro-life, is antithetical to a free and democratic society.”
He also mentioned the fact to LifeSiteNews that the mainstream media have ignored the CLC petition, which already had over 2,400 signatures when it was delivered to Nova Scotia ministers Mark Furey and Randy Delorey in December. It currently has over 3,100 signatures.
A first offense under conviction is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 or a six-month prison term, or both, going up to a maximum fine of $10,000, or one year in prison, or both, for a second offense.
If a corporation is found guilty of violating the law, it faces fines of up to $25,000 for a first offense, then a possible $100,000 for a second offense.
Ruth Robert, coordinator for CLC Nova Scotia, gave some background to LifeSiteNews as to why this law was introduced, which she notes is the direct result of pro-life protests.
In late September of 2019, Robert helped lead a 40 Days for Life protest outside the Victoria General hospital Women’s Choice Clinic in Halifax, where abortions are performed.
Robert told LifeSiteNews that during the last week of the event, Megan Boudreau, a student at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, was angry at the protests. This caused her to create a campaign against the pro-life protesters to push for a “bubble zone” law for Nova Scotia.
Liberal MLA Labi Kousoulis then began working with Boudreau late last year on anti–free speech bubble zone legislation.
Boudreau obtained a 140-signature petition demanding buffer zones outside facilities where abortions take place in the province. It had the support of Chender, who tabled it in the Nova Scotia Province House on Tuesday. Boudreau also has an online version of the petition that has around 1,100 signatures as of today.
She was quoted as saying in the Halifax publication The Chronicle Herald, “Abortion is health care and health care should be harassment-free.”
Robert says that despite not having the support of any local politicians, she vows to continue the fight to oppose the bill. She will be presenting to the committee on behalf of CLC on March 6 at Province House.
“I’m planning to contact the legislative council and ask to speak to the committee, now that it passed second reading and bring our views on it because we have not been contacted,” she said to LifeSiteNews.
“They talk about a 140-signature petition, but we’ve got one with over 3,000.”
Robert noted that laws already exist for people to call the police if they feel threatened by anyone and added that bubble zone laws will do nothing but “silence people” and are a “danger to democracy.”
To sign CLC’s petition, see below.
Office of the Premier
7th Floor, One Government Place
1700 Granville Street
Halifax, NS B3J 1X5
Phone: (902) 424-6600
Fax: (902) 424-7648