Calgary city council approves restrictions on door-to-door graphic pamphlets

Calgary city councilors have approved a motion that opens the door to new regulations that would limit door-to-door distribution of anti-abortion flyers.

The motion, drafted by Ward 2 Count. Jennifer Wyness, called for new regulations that would require leaflets sent from anti-abortion groups - which include graphic images, such as showing or claiming to show a fetus, or any part of a fetus - to be hidden in an envelope.

The motion also asks for the flyer to include a viewer discretion warning.

On Wednesday, the board voted unanimously to approve Wyness' motion after a majority of board members signed off as sponsor of the motion.

"It's about representing the community and finding ways to balance belief systems and everyone's rights," Wyness told Global News. "I think that's what I'm trying to balance as I write this."

Wyness told the board that he heard about the matter from constituents who had graphic flyers handed down on their doorstep.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the council had "struggled for a long time," and noted an incident in which he was personally affected by the graphic pamphlet.

“This is very traumatic,” Gondek told the council. "I've put this in my mailbox after the miscarriage and it's not something I want anyone else to experience."

The city made the move to recognize "the right of parents to control their children's access to potentially intrusive or offensive material," Wyness's motion said.

But according to the motion, current rules require residents to "choose between not accepting leaflets or accepting all leaflets, including those containing alleged images of an aborted fetus."

However, the language in motions could open the door to future legal challenges, according to Marty Moore, an attorney at the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedom.

"This regulation does not target graphic imagery as a whole, it targets specific graphic images used by pro-life groups for political expression," Moore told Global News. “You can anticipate significant resistance on the basis that this is not a neutral regulation to protect residents from graphic imagery, which could evoke their emotions or trigger them in some way.”

Wyness constituent Jennifer Sanger also received a graphic anti-abortion flyer at her home last summer.

The former maternity nurse said the leaflet raised the trauma of her patient experiencing loss.

Sanger is now working with the Viewer Discretion Legislation Coalition (VDLC), which is advocating for changes to laws in Canada to prohibit the use of graphic images on door-to-door flyers without consent.

"I don't want to censor anti-abortion groups," Sanger told Global News. "I want our family values ​​to be respected in the way they get their message across."

Wyness' motion is similar to regulations passed earlier this year in London, Ontario. The new rules require flyers containing graphic images to be distributed in envelopes with content advisories.

Calgarians will be able to voice their opinion at public hearings on the matter when new regulations are drafted by the city government, which is expected sometime next year.

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