EDMONTON — Premier Rachel Notley's NDP government made more changes to its abortion clinic bill Wednesday while the Opposition United Conservatives continued to register their displeasure by walking out en masse during votes.As reported by Mr. Bennett on May 8, 2018:
Government members accepted an amendment from Independent Derek Fildebrandt to specifically include the role of municipal bylaw officers in enforcing the proposed legislation, which mandates no-protest zones around clinics.
However, they rejected a second Fildebrandt motion aimed at ensuring the bill won't restrict the freedom of the media to cover news events surrounding the clinics.
"I don't think (privacy of clinic participants) has been abused by the media to date and I don't think it would be abused in the future, but I think (press freedom) is an important aspect to take note of when we're writing legislation," Fildebrandt told the house.
NDP Infrastructure Minister Sandra Jansen spoke against the amendment.
Jansen, a former journalist, said mainstream journalists already handle the clinics respectfully. But Jansen said some anti-abortionists billing themselves as journalists would use the amendment to breach the no-go zone and harass staff and patients.
"While I appreciate the effort, I will say that I find the implications of this amendment frightening," Jansen said.
Bill 9 would create minimum 50 metre no-protest zones around abortion clinics.
It would also make it illegal for anyone to harass a doctor by phone, mail or online to convince them to not provide abortion services. Anyone breaking the law would face fines up to $10,000 or a year in jail.
UCP Leader Jason Kenney has said the legislation is unnecessary because abortion clinics already have legal tools at their disposal to deal with protests. He said he and his caucus are abstaining from what they call deliberately political and provocative legislation.
Five of the 25-member UCP caucus sat silently during debate of Fildebrandt's amendments and walked out when the votes were called.
The UCP has now left the house en masse six times during discussions on Bill 9.
The NDP says the UCP members are failing to meet their responsibilities as legislature members by walking out on an important bill.
Earlier Wednesday during question period, Kenney questioned the government's sincerity, noting, "Bill 9 is something they did not even think was important enough to mention in their (recent) throne speech let alone their (2015 election) platform."
The UCP caucus also walked out of the vote late Tuesday night when the government accepted an amendment by NDP backbencher Deborah Drever to increase the safety zones to 150 metres if the proposed minimum of 50 metres doesn't prove effective.
Fildebrandt argued against it.
He said while he is in favour of legislated protections for women and staff, that must be balanced with respect for freedom of speech.
If the bill becomes law, Alberta would join British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador in creating so-called bubble zones.
Notley has said the UCP absence at debate speaks to the party's broader unofficial policy of not standing up for women's rights.
This past weekend, United Conservatives voted to adopt a policy that would mandate parents be told when a minor has "invasive medical procedures."
Those on both sides of the abortion debate say that would open the door to mandatory parental consent in abortion procedures for minors.
Kenney has said he will decide what resolutions are part of the party's election platform and reiterated he won't legislate on abortion.
EDMONTON — United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney says he will not legislate on abortion even though party members passed a resolution that advocates on both sides say could do just that.Fatboy Kenney is a textbook example of a "conservative"--conserving nothing having to do with Western civilization, merely conserving what the enemies of Western civilization have achieved. This is at least consistent with his record in federal politics, when, as a member of the cabinet of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "Conservative" government from 2006-2015, he refused to do anything to support efforts by pro-life backbenchers to place any restrictions on abortion. This was the government that was accused by some of its more hysterical opponents--especially in the media--of attempting to implement a Christian theocracy. Fatboy Kenney has also made it clear that he will do nothing to impede the sexual perversion agenda. In fact, his United "Conservative" Party (the only thing they're united on is the desire for power) is expressing its disappointment at not being allowed to march in this year's perversion pride parade in Edmonton. As federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism in 2011, Mr. Kenney was pleased to announce a policy of admitting more sodomites and lesbians to the country, and declined to comment when the "Conservative" government legalized the abortion pill in 2015. Fatboy Kenney entered politics as a member of the Reform Party of Canada, but like the rest of that now-defunct party, he lost interest in reform and now can't be bothered to conserve anything.
"I've been clear that we won't be bringing forward any legislative measures on abortion," Kenney said at the legislature Tuesday.
At the party's founding convention on the weekend, members voted 74 per cent in favour of a resolution that would require parents to be notified before any invasive medical procedure was performed on a minor.
The anti-abortion group Wilberforce Project spoke in favour of the motion and urged delegates to adopt it.
Kenney said the resolution was put forward by a delegate whose child was vaccinated without his knowledge.
"The resolution spoke to a general concern about parents wanting to be involved in their children's health, particularly for young children," he said.
"Obviously we support the idea that children should receive vaccines that are necessary to protect their health, but parents should not be surprised when they learn their child has been given a shot."
Premier Rachel Notley and Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said the resolution was aimed at interfering in abortions.
Notley said the resolution, along with the refusal of Kenney's caucus to debate or vote on a bill that would create safe zones around abortion clinics, exhibits a disturbing pattern.
"You put those two things together, the fact of the matter is women in Alberta would not have anybody standing up for them in the UCP caucus," Notley said.
"I want all women to know in this province that we respect their bodily autonomy, that we respect their right to access legal services without having to get someone to sign a permission slip," added Hoffman.
Kenney, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister, has said in the past what while he is against abortion, he won't legislate on the issue.
The resolution was one of two contentious social policies adopted by party members at the convention.
Members also voted 57 per cent in favour of parents being told when their children are involved in any subject of a religious or sexual nature, including after-school social clubs such as gay-straight alliances.
The issue sparked heated debate on the convention floor. Kenney said Sunday he interpreted the resolution differently and wouldn't implement it the way members saw it.
Kenney has made it clear that while members can vote for policies, it's his job to craft a platform that would work for four million Albertans should the United Conservatives win power.
"It's not my intention to get into any contentious social issues in our platform," said Kenney.
Gay-straight alliances are social clubs set up by students to help LGBTQ children feel welcome and to lessen any chance of bullying. Under Alberta law, students can get a gay-straight alliance if they ask for one and schools are forbidden from telling parents if their children are in one.
Advocates have suggested some parents would oppose their child's participation and that, by notifying parents, children would not take the risk to sign up and the social groups would die.
Notley said she is concerned that Kenney, if he were premier, would either weaken the existing law or leave it on the books but not take action if it were ignored.
She said the former Progressive Conservative government did not push to enforce existing rules around gay-straight alliances.
"Based on the much more extreme positions that were adopted by the UCP last weekend, we can expect very clearly that they wouldn't enforce the rules that we put in place."
When Premier Notley's father Grant was leader of the Alberta New Democrats, it was possible to be a member of that party and to be pro-life, and even to get nominated as a candidate. I remember a pro-life NDP member running as a candidate in a provincial election in the 1980s. When I was a student at the University of Alberta in the early 1980s I was acquainted with a fellow student who was a supporter (he may have been a member, but I don't recall) of the provincial NDP, who was pro-life, and wasn't afraid to be at odds with the majority of those in the party.
Meanwhile, John Carpay, a lawyer from Calgary who is doing tremendous work to defend Canadian Christians' rapidly-diminishing freedoms, argues that the new Alberta law is unconstitutional and unnecessary. As he stated on May 9, 2018 (updated May 10, 2018):
Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman recently claimed that banning peaceful anti-abortion protests near abortion clinics is not about freedom of expression. Yet she has also expressed confidence that her new law would withstand a constitutional challenge.
By speaking of a constitutional challenge, it seems that she knows that this new law tramples on free expression as protected by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It’s not easy to make a case against peaceful expression on a public sidewalk, so the minister, along with Edmonton and Calgary abortion clinic managers, refer to a collection of illegal and potentially illegal behaviours: “aggression, threats, yelling, screaming, interference, bullying, intimidation, harassment, shaming, and blocking access.” Perhaps these examples of illegal behaviour will distract people from the prohibition on Charter-protected expression.
It is a criminal assault to push, shove, hit, or punch someone, or even touch someone without consent. Uttering threats to harm a person’s life, body, or property is also criminal. Disturbing the peace by yelling and screaming is criminal, and also contrary to municipal noise bylaws.
Criminal Code Section 430 makes it illegal to “obstruct, interrupt, or interfere with the lawful use, enjoyment, or operation of property.” It’s criminal to block access to someone going about their business and engaging in legal activities (which includes getting an abortion). All of these actions could be characterized as aggression, which is illegal, along with interference, threats, yelling, screaming, and blocking access.
But what about bullying, intimidation, shaming, and harassment? Intimidation caused by physical blocking, interference, or obstruction is already illegal.
Intimidation caused by threats is also already illegal. An environmentalist protester can’t tell a logger: “Chop down that tree and I will chop you down.” But threatening some form of moral consequences or psychological harm (e.g. “you are on the wrong side of history,” “karma will repay you for harming Mother Earth” or “your lust for profits is killing the forest”) is perfectly legal.
Intimidation caused by someone criticizing your behaviour is part of living in a free country. How can citizens debate a topic (pipelines, climate change, Donald Trump’s presidency) without referring—directly or indirectly—to standards of good and evil? In contrast to theocratic Iran and communist North Korea, free societies don’t dictate the correct answers to difficult questions...
...In a free society, nobody can be exempt from having her or his actions criticized as immoral by others. Witness the predictable litany of judgment cast by social justice warriors: racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. Should governments pass laws to create “safe” zones where no person will hear such words?
What holds true for intimidation also holds true for bullying, shaming, and harassment. Feelings of being bullied, shamed, and harassed are normal in a free country, and to be expected, absent physical interference or threats of harm. All Canadians have a right to denounce conduct they believe to be wrong. People exercise this right every day on blogs and Facebook and Twitter and elsewhere, denouncing what they see as political, economic, or environmental injustice.
Whenever citizens exercise this right to speak out against actions they believe to be unjust, this will necessarily offend those who carry out such actions. Feeling offended is the price we pay for living in a free country.
Alberta’s proposed law is about government deciding that the “wrong” opinion can’t be expressed peacefully on a public sidewalk, just because some people feel very offended by this opinion.
Under the pretence of stopping already-illegal behaviour, this law targets the heart of constitutionally protected expression. This law should therefore be resisted and rejected by all who cherish free society—pro-choice and anti-abortion people alike.