ABBOTSFORD, British Columbia, January 31, 2013, ( – The leader of Canada’s most high-profile abortion activist group is calling on a British Columbia city to remove a display of crosses from private property.

The display of 1,862 crosses is set up on a farmer’s field in January for two months every year by Abbotsford Right to Life to commemorate the number of children who die in Canada every week as a result of abortion.

This year’s display, called The Cemetery of the Innocent, will also include signs bearing messages like “Choosing abortion stops a beating heart,” and “Pregnant? Need Help? Call 1-877-88-woman.”


Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, says the display is “religious, divisive, offensive, intrusive, insulting, and discriminatory” and the city ought to take it down.

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman told B.C.’s The Province newspaper, however, that the city has no power over the signs, because they are on private property.

“It is not in violation of any sign bylaw,” the mayor said. “It comes down to freedom of expression. It is one group opposed to the views of another.”

In a January 29 open letter to Banman and the city council, Arthur notes the signs are erected on a “private farm” but claims it is done with the “full approval” of the city.

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“It is inappropriate for the City to use its resources and authority to approve what is basically a sectarian religious message that is divisive and upsetting for the community,” she writes.

In response, the pro-life group says Arthur should have started by doing her homework.

“Her claims are basically untrue from beginning to end and this letter could have been avoided if she had of spoken to us first,” said Jared White, Abbotsford Right to Life’s director of education and development. “The city has no involvement in this display whatsoever. They don’t sanction it, they don’t approve it, we don’t get a permit. They have nothing to do with it.”

“She obviously didn’t actually do the research to find out if what she was saying in her letter was true,” White added. “So, I think it kind of makes her look a little silly. I think she should be a bit embarrassed by it because she got her facts completely wrong.”

In her letter, Arthur says the display is “doubly offensive,” because abortions are represented by a cross, explaining that “many women having abortions are not Christian.”

“Together, the sign and crosses are a misappropriation of a woman's private experience that is absolutely no-one’s business,” she adds.

White said they are sensitive to the difficulties post-abortive women might experience in viewing the display, but noted that “it’s the abortion that’s causing the trauma.”

“Seeing the crosses is triggering the trauma, but the pain that these women talk about feeling, our display isn’t causing that pain,” he said.

According to White, ”It’s telling that Joyce Arthur is resorting to wanting to shut down the conversation rather than to engage in the conversation.”

“She doesn’t actually dispute the fact that abortion stops a beating heart,” he continued. “She just doesn’t like the fact that we are saying it and portraying it with an actual cemetery.” 

Contact information:

Mayor Bruce Banman
Phone: 604-864-5500

To e-mail Mayor Bruce Banman and the city council, use this form.
For councilors phone numbers, visit their webpage here.


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