Alberta set to introduce bill for no-go zones around abortion clinics

government intends to introduce a bill that would protect women from harassment

The Alberta government says it will introduce legislation Thursday to establish no-go zones for protesters around abortion clinics.

Kathleen Ganley, deputy house leader, gave official notice to the legislature Wednesday that the government intends to introduce a bill that would protect women from harassment.

Earlier Wednesday, Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said intimidation of patients at abortion clinics in Alberta is on the rise. That is something no one should have to tolerate, she said.

“This is not about freedom of speech,” said Hoffman. “This is about deliberate targeting by intimidation, shame, harassment and bullying of women who are often vulnerable.

“That is completely unacceptable. Alberta women should have the right to access the care that’s right for them, including safe access to abortion services.”

RELATED: Clash over reproductive rights at Okanagan College

She declined to discuss details of the proposed legislation until it is introduced Thursday.

If it were to pass, Alberta would join British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador in creating safe zones to keep protesters away from patients.

Two clinics, one in Edmonton and one in Calgary, handle about 75 per cent of abortions in Alberta.

Hoffman said the number of protesters outside the Calgary Kensington clinic has doubled in the last year and there are demonstrators outside the Women’s Health Options centre in Edmonton four or five times a week.

RELATED: Pressure on Newfoundland to offer more abortion coverage

Both clinics have court orders keeping protesters at a distance.

But Celia Posyniak of the Kensington Clinic, who joined Hoffman at a news conference Wednesday, said the order for her facility has become ineffective.

She said protesters have been violating the rule that says they are to stay across the street and have been harassing patients with signs, verbal abuse and occasional attacks. She said the clinic has also been vandalized.

She said staff have to keep calling police to enforce the order, but recognize that officers are stretched to the limit.

“It’s frankly a waste of police resources,” said Posyniak. “They have told us we’re not a priority and I understand that. However, if we don’t enforce the meagre little order that we have … it would be chaos.”

Ontario legislation keeps protesters 50 metres away. Anyone who breaks the law can face a fine starting at $5,000 or given six months in jail.

Posyniak said the Alberta legislation will only be effective if there are some consequences for law-breakers.

Jason Nixon, house leader for the Opposition United Conservatives, said his caucus will look at the proposed legislation before commenting.

“We’ll see the bill when it comes forward. We’ll evaluate it. We’ll communicate with our constituents, with Albertans, like we would with any other piece of legislation, and then take a position from there,” said Nixon.

Greg Clark, house leader for the Alberta Party, said his colleagues, too, will wait before committing to supporting the bill. But he added they support the government’s overall approach.

“Protecting a woman’s right to choose is a fundamental right,” said Clark.

Liberal MLA David Swann, a medical doctor, agreed.

“Both patients and staff need to feel safe,” said Swann. “They’re doing a legally sanctioned activity.”

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

First Nation supporters march to Premier John Horgan’s MLA office in Langford

Upwards of 30 people moved across the West Shore Wednesday morning in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en

EDITORIAL: Safe water should trump traffic plan

Emergency Malahat route through Sooke watershed a non-starter

Donation bin deaths raise questions about safety

Recent deaths have prompted the removal or retrofit of boxes in Greater Victoria

North Cowichan will host new permanent centre starting October 2020

Saanich’s bid for national rowing centre at Elk Lake sunk

BC Transit unveiling real time bus tracking and stop notifications in Victoria

New display system will allow customers to see and hear upcoming bus stop information

Giant rotating ice disk forms in Maine river

Ice disk that is roughly 100 yards wide has formed in the Presumpscot River

SUV wedged on top of car in B.C. mall parking lot has customers confused

The accident occurred Tuesday, no injuries were reported

Tom Lavin and the Powder Blues Band among acts to perform at Comox Valley’s Winterfest

Participating hotels offering half-price “ski & stay” packages

Huawei founder thanks inmates, Canadian justice system for treating daughter well

Ren Zhengfei said he believes there will be a just conclusion to the case of his daughter, Meng Wanzhou

May government faces no-confidence vote after Brexit defeat

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she would stay put in her leadership role

Vancouver Island soccer player a first-round major-league draft pick

Callum Montgomery goes fourth overall to FC Dallas in MLS SuperDraft

Razor burn: Gillette ad stirs online uproar

A Gillette ad for men invoking the #MeToo movement is sparking intense online backlash

Feds poised to bolster RCMP accountability with external committee

Long-anticipated move is the latest attempt at rebuilding the force following years of sagging morale

Canada needs a digital ID system, bankers association says

The Department of Finance last week officially launched its public consultation on the merits of open banking

Most Read