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

Robert Barron column: Homeless issues heat up as cold weather returns

Only about 30 per cent of those who are currently homeless have drug addictions.

VIDEO: New Met season at Cowichan Theatre features a great mix of new and old

We’ve got bodice rippers, hilarious comedies, and enough fire and brimstone to please any opera lover

Andrea Rondeau column: Lots of excitement in this fall’s municipal elections, with plenty of tight races

One thing that’s for certain is that there’s going to be a lot of new faces

Sarah Simpson column: Reunited and it feels so good

This is what happened when a budgie went into a liquor store

T.W. Paterson column: Upscale subdivision’s ‘silent neighbours’ recall grim past

“This is sort of an average people’s historic site”

Environment Canada confirms Ottawa area hit by two tornadoes Friday

At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out

Cowichan Coffee Time: 4H, a marathon and fundraising

• A group of 4H-ers had a woolly good time at the… Continue reading

B.C. VIEWS: Looking under the hood of ICBC’s war on crashes

Is our accident rate really soaring, or is it inefficiency?

Coaches, players on Alberta university rugby team buckle up for the Broncos

16 people died when Humboldt Broncos bus collided with a semi-truck in rural Saskatchewan

The Vatican ‘owes God an apology,’ activist says in letter to Pope Francis

Letter came after a report on sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children in six Pennsylvania dioceses

Lions earn stunning 35-32 OT win over Ticats

Epic comeback lifts B.C. past Hamilton in CFL thriller

Czarnik nets 3 as Flames dump Canucks 5-2

Calgary picks up exhibition win over Vancouver

Ottawa to name new ambassador for women, peace and security, Freeland says

Chrystia Freeland also confirmed Canada would spend about $25 million to fund number of initiatives

Most Read