Anti-abortion stunt in Chilliwack accused of disrespecting veterans

"There is no way that you can compare what a soldier and his/her family have experienced to an unborn child," said one outraged poster.

Abortion protesters walk amid some of the 10

A little more respect should have been shown for Canadian soldiers and veterans.

That was the sentiment from some Chilliwack residents this week, in the wake of an anti-abortion protest that covered a city property in blue and pink flags Saturday morning.

Organizers said they thought they had permission to cover the Chilliwack Museum grounds in 10,000 flags.

City staff contend they did not in fact have permission, as no formal request was received from organizers to use the civic property, which includes the Chilliwack Cenotaph.

About 25 members of group, made up of local volunteers with Fraser Valley Association for Reformed Political Action and We Need A Law went ahead anyway and set up the anti-abortion display at about 7 a.m. on Nov. 1.

“We are doing this to show to our community the momentous impact that abortion has on our community and nation,” said organizer Emily Van Brederode in a press release before the event.

“Although our political leaders claim that abortion should be safe, legal and rare, these flags show that it is happening 100,000 times every year in Canada.”

But the comments and reactions to the anti-abortion display were scathingly critical that night online, after photos popped up of the event.

“The Cenotaph was not the right location especially during the two week period (Oct 31 – Nov 11) set aside to Honour Soldiers/Veterans,” wrote one poster. “There is no way that you can compare what a soldier and his/her family have experienced to an unborn child.”

Another said he put a call into the RCMP.

“I called the RCMP to talk to them. Any protesters in Canada have to apply for a permit to protest. They did not have one,” he fumed, adding “The only thing useful that they did that day was aerate the lawn around the cenotaph with their flags.”

One of the organizers Mike Schouten said it was more educational than a protest.

“It was a unique way to get attention, but not offensive,” he suggested since their literature didn’t have any horrifying graphics.

“And there will always be people who do not want to see this” type of display, adding the point was there is no legislation in Canada protecting the rights of the unborn.

Getting the event posted on the city’s online events’ page, led them to believe they had permission for the display, said Schouten, who spoke to The Progress Monday.

The flags were gone by 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon. RCMP attended the downtown location near the Museum after getting calls saying the protest did not have a permit.

City of Chilliwack officials have stated in response, due to the misunderstanding, they will not fine the group ultimately.

Placing flags on the civic property without permission is considered a contravention of the Parks, Recreation and Culture Bylaw. Under this bylaw, the group would have needed to obtain written approval before the event. Placing a flag or sign in contravention of this bylaw typically carries a penalty of $100 per sign.

“When Operations staff inspected the property on Saturday afternoon it was free from garbage, flags and damage,” stated City of Chilliwack communications official Jamie Leggatt. “From what we understand the group did not impede traffic or movement into the Museum.”

“Due to the misunderstanding City staff will not fine the organizers and will look into ways to ensure this type of confusion does not happen again.

“Bylaws did receive three complaints due to the content and the choice of location for the event, but did not receive complaints about the event impeding access to the Museum or causing damage.”

It was not the content of the protest, it was the timing and the location, and veterans and soldiers were upset by it.

“I’m not saying that the protest or demonstration was wrong – just the timing and location of it,” the first commented wrote online, addressing the group directly. “Please in future be thoughtful towards others as well.

“And if you think that you didn’t cause much disturbance, you should have been flies on the walls in the local service clubs, ie. ANAVETS, Royal Canadian Legion, Army and Navy club – the people there were shocked and very disappointed in the lack of respect for the soldiers/veterans.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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