Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns joins elected officials calling on province to block disturbing anti-abortion images

Today Peter Tabuns, NDP MPP for Toronto-Danforth, issued the following joint letter with Toronto City Councillors Paula Fletcher (Ward 30), Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29) and TDSB Trustee Jennifer Story (Ward 15), calling on the Wynne government for an injunction to block the use of disturbing images being distributed to homes and displayed on streets in their area by an anti-abortion group.

 

 

Hon. Yasir Naqvi, MPP Ministry of the Attorney General
11th Floor 720 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2S9

August 24, 2017

Dear Minister,

We are writing to you on behalf of the residents of our community to ask for your immediate action. We want you to seek an injunction blocking the use of horrifying images by an anti-abortion group, the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, which is distributing flyers and displaying placards on major streets in our area.

The graphic images feature chopped up fetuses. These images are placed in people’s mailboxes. As parents have said to us their young children often go to get the mail and would be traumatized by the images. Pregnant women have complained that they have been profoundly disturbed by the images.

We ask that you seek an injunction against distribution of material that features these graphic and traumatizing images. Although we object to the message and the misleading information on the flyers we understand that freedom of speech is protected and we don’t ask for prohibition of the message, as much as we disagree with it.

Our concern is to protect children and adults who would be traumatized by distribution or display of these images.

We would ask you to seek an injunction based on the need to prevent a public nuisance. Our reasoning is based on this observation:

“According to authors Lori Sterling and Heather Mackay, writing in the Queen’s Law Journal in 2009, Ontario’s Attorney General has authority under the nuisance doctrine to seek court-ordered injunctions in the public interest:

The Attorney General can seek an injunction to enjoin “public nuisances” when a nuisance becomes “so widespread in its range or so indiscriminate in its effect that it would not be reasonable to expect one person to take proceedings on his own responsibility to put a stop to it, but that it should be taken on the responsibility of the community at large.” Such nuisances often involve interference with property or public rights involving health, safety, comfort or morality—such as the obstruction of highways, excessive noise, pollution, soliciting for prostitution, and the violation of fire and safety codes—and are very similar to the types of conduct that would give rise to a private injunction for nuisance.”

Should it not be possible to proceed with an injunction we would ask that you develop and bring forward legislation to prohibit the use of such graphic and disturbing images in line with a request made by the City Council of Hamilton in 2014:

That City Council respectfully request the Government of Canada through the Prime Minister and the Province of Ontario through the Premier to consider enacting legislation and/or Regulations in all aspects of their particular jurisdictions dealing with advertising and communication such as broadcasting/telecommunications advertising or consumer protection advertising to prevent the use of graphic, gruesome and disturbing images of aborted fetuses in display materials, advertising posters, banners, and other mediums as part of any Anti-Abortion or Pro-Life campaign at least to the extent that such images are shielded from children and other vulnerable persons.4

We ask you to act expeditiously to protect the citizens of our community and the people of Ontario.

Sincerely,

(Original Signed) (Original Signed)

Peter Tabuns, Paula Fletcher
MPP City Councillor, Toronto
Toronto-Danforth Ward 30


(Original Signed) (Original signed)

Mary Fragedakis Jennifer Story
City Councillor, Toronto Trustee, TDSB
Ward 29 Ward 15


Comments from Constituents who have encountered the images:

“The flyer is full of misinformation as well as very gory images. I'm grateful my young children didn't see them.
Whether I'm on one side or the other - though I'm sure you can guess - the fact of the matter is, the images in these unwanted flyers - for women and families dealing with sexual trauma or miscarriage or, candidly, I am pregnant and deal with a great deal of anxiety related to preterm labour - quite simply are triggers.”

“A self prompted ‘Human Right’s Group’ called Choice42.com delivered anti abortion material to my mailbox. I believe in freedom of choice, even though I don’t agree with this group’s stance on the issues of pregnancy termination.
What I do object to the fact that this printed material contained graphic images of terminated foetuses. This material was NOT in a sealed envelope. It was not addressed to me or my address.
My partner and I encourage our children to help with chores around the house. My 4 year old son helps collect the mail. I am outraged that today my son was exposed to these graphic images without my knowledge or consent. Images such as this should be regulated and not for public view. Certainly not for exposure to children. As a psychologist I am all too aware of the potentially traumatizing effect of exposure to graphic material at such a vulnerable age.”

“Today I received this disturbing anti-abortion pamphlet in my mail. The images on it are quite disturbing and graphic.”

“I received in my mailbox today an anti-abortion flyer depicting graphic violence. Delivery of material containing graphic violence to people's homes is totally inappropriate, not to mention extremely hurtful.

My wife is 9 months less two days pregnant. Had she seen this material it would have caused an extremely visceral reaction and likely would have been an association that she would carry with her for life.”

“I'm very upset about the flyers and the protesters in the neighborhood distributing very graphic images in the past few weeks. I have two small children who I now am taking cautiously around the streets of the Danforth in fear of them being confronted by these horrifying images. Today, they're basically across the street from your office (as I'm sure you know). I wanted to add my voice to the many who I'm sure are raising objections.”

“We recently received a very disturbing flyer in our mailbox that graphically depicted aborted fetuses. Needless to say, it was distressing for adults but could potentially be emotionally and psychologically damaging to any children that may view it. I myself have a 5 and 3 year old that love to get the mail for mom and dad when we get home from daycare. I can't imagine what would have happened had they seen this propaganda.

I wonder what can be done to prevent this type of graphic literature from being distributed to mailboxes? I respect the right to free speech, and have no problem with them distributing literature reflecting their beliefs, but the graphic images go too far.”

“Please see the attached. My 5 year old saw this in our mail last week and was very upset by this, especially since my wife is 8 months pregnant. The group had the same image on a massive placard at Queen and Logan this afternoon.
I further believe they target women, and pregnant women specifically and I believe that to be harassment. My own wife came home in tears and was exceptionally upset by the encounter.”