After some Airdrie residents across several neighbourhoods discovered what they say are graphic images in pro-life/anti-abortion pamphlets that were left at their doors, they are calling on The City to re-examine whether there should be a bylaw passed to limit the advertisements from being distributed without any kind of disclaimer.
Airdronian Elizabeth Jarman said that the issue is not new to her, as in 2019, she had started an online petition after the pamphlets had also begun circulating in Airdrie neighbourhoods. At that time, the flyer was tucked into the door and her six-year-old son had gotten a hold of it.
"When he came home from school from his bus stop, sure enough, he got a hold of this flyer and then of course, started asking questions and that's not [a conversation] a mother wants to have with a six-year-old; let alone any child to be honest, "It kind of died off for a bit and I noticed and it wasn't as apparent and then recently it just seemed to be popping up more and more frequently."
The issue of smaller children finding the adverts was something dozens of residents across several social media groups on Facebook highlighted, with many vehemently criticizing the distributors of the flyers, saying that those who distribute the ads may be traumatizing not only kids but also adults who have gone through traumatizing events such as miscarriages, processing the death of their infants due to chronic medical illnesses or due to Sudden Infant Death (SID) syndrome, sexual assaults, or otherwise.
"There were also some not-so-medical explanations, which I believe was misleading and bending the trust," Jarman added. "Of course, I'm not a medical professional, but you could see that some of it wasn't accurate."
Jarman's online petition underlines that while she and others respect the freedom of speech, there should also be an option afforded to this who do not wish to view graphic imagery. She also noted, that when the matter was in fact brought before the council in 2019, the city council concluded that it couldn't pass legislation that would target graphic images without such legislation being vulnerable to being challenged in the courts; especially on the basis of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which does include, “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”.
However, in Jarman's petition, she states that Airdrie's city council could follow what The City of Calgary announced earlier this month. On May 9, The City of Calgary announced that Calgary City Council has approved an amendment to the Calgary Community Standards Bylaw that will help protect people from viewing graphic images of fetuses when delivered to their homes.
"Through engagement, The City of Calgary heard that flyers containing these graphic images can be disturbing and painful for those who have experienced miscarriage or pregnancy termination," The City of Calgary stated in a press release.
Effective immediately, the amendment outlines that flyers that have graphic images of fetuses must be concealed in an opaque envelope, with a graphic content warning, and include the name and address of the sender when delivered to homes.
Calgary councillor Jennifer Wyness underlined that while the City of Calgary and the council want to uphold the freedom of advocacy groups to express their opinions, she said there needs to also balance in responsibility to protect communities.
"As a society, we accept that not all content is appropriate for everyone, which is why we have R-ratings for disturbing or mature films, for example. These pamphlets fall under that same category and it's reasonable to ask that they come with a content warning.”
The three requirements of the bylaw amendment in Calgary carry separate fines of $1000 if violated.
Jarman noted that one of the most frustrating things about the flyers that are currently being distributed around Airdrie is that because they do not have a return address, nor any information about which organization is distributing them, residents are not able to call on said organization to complain or request the advertisements stop. Airdrie RCMP confirmed that they received two complaints with respect to the distribution of graphic material on May 19.
She said that thus far from what she has seen and heard the pamphlets were distributed around the Morningside, Cooper's, Bayside and Hillcrest neighbourhoods.
Jarman's petition has 283 signatures thus far.
The City was not available for comment at the time of publication.
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