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Steve Weatherbe

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Woman so upset at message of pro-life flyers, she took them out of neighbours’ mailboxes

Steve Weatherbe

TORONTO, June 10, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A Toronto pro-abortion mother of two has had a change of heart about her removal of prolife flyers from her neighbour’s mailboxes.

Liz Phillips removed the flyers distributed by the Calgary-based Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform because she believed the picture they contained of an aborted eight-week old unborn child was too graphic for children to see.

But the negative response of some neighbours caused her to rethink her deed, especially one woman who was “very upset that I’d gone into her mailbox at all, and I totally understand that, which is why I kind of thought about what I’d do if this were to happen again to make sure that those concerns were heard,” she told the Canadian Press.

Phillips initially justified her action on two grounds. “I'm pro-choice,” she told the CBC, “so I don't like the messaging itself. I also don't assume that everybody on the block thinks the same way.” Nonetheless, she felt justified in removing the brochures, which bore an image of living unborn child of seven weeks on one side and an aborted eight-week old unborn child on the other. "My main concern was with the graphic nature of the brochures."

Phillips left a message in each mailbox she emptied, telling the residents she still had the flyers if they wanted them. She said she was not “policing” what her neighbours were thinking and that “freedom of expression is important to me.”

Toronto police told the reporters that they would not investigate. Constable David Hopkinson told the Canadian Press, “If mail is delivered to you, delivered by Canada Post containing your name, that is theft of mail, and it is a federal offence.” Because the material Phillips took was delivered by volunteers and not addressed to specific residents, it is not mail and taking it is not “a federal offence,” apparently raising the possibility for one retailer to follow around behind a rival delivering flyers and remove them.

But the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform’s eastern co-ordinator Maaike Rosendal wonders if the police have considered Section 430(1) of the Criminal Code. It says, “Every one commits mischief who wilfully…obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.”

Rosendal said the CCBR was considering its legal options. The brochures were distributed by summer interns. During the 2015 federal election CCBR worked with Campaign Life Coalition to distribute 1 million brochures across Canada, encountering frequent objections about the graphic content, but the police never intervened, saying the prolife group was within its free speech rights.

A second Toronto resident, Maya Bastian, also objected to the latest campaign, but she did so by complaining to her MP and her municipal councillor and the Canadian Advertising Standards Council, not by removing flyers from mailboxes. She said that her five-year-old daughter had suffered nightmares from seeing the image of the aborted child.

“To me, it's obscene,” she told reporters. “It's just as obscene as if I were delivering porn flyers. The images are burned into my brain. If it is in my brain as a 37-year-old, then what is it doing to a five-year-old?”

The CCBR’s Rosendal told LifeSiteNews that it was regrettable that children so young sometimes see the pictures. The CCBR, she said, “had to weigh the feelings of some children against the lives of a lot of unborn children. But if our society is so concerned about the former, shouldn't we be all the more concerned about the latter?"

As the CCBR sees it, “In order for Canada to reject abortion, Canadians need to see it for what it is. Many people are changed as a result, and some are even grateful for being shown what abortion is,” said Rosendal. “They say, it’s not the postcards that are horrible. It’s abortion that’s horrible.”

Rosendal then cited an adage often attributed to the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, that truth goes through three stages: first ridiculed, then violently opposed, and finally accepted as something people knew all along. “Our message was ridiculed and is now being violently opposed,” said Rosendal.

“Are we willing to endure that in order for abortion to become unthinkable?”

Given the Toronto police’s blind eye, CCBR doesn’t know how it will proceed, though it is developing new postcards that fold over the abortion picture. In the meantime, under common law, a private citizen can apply to a Justice of the Peace for a private prosecution. The judge can lay a charge, and if the Crown deems it is in the public interest, the latter must take up the case.

Phillips said several of her neighbours approved her actions but others objected. “They don’t agree with the material itself, but they don’t want someone else to make the decision of whether they get it. They want to see it," she said. "They would rather get it, and even if their children saw it, they would rather have that conversation with their children because it came up."

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