Anti-abortion flag taken down at Ottawa City Hall
Published Thursday, May 11, 2017 3:28PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 11, 2017 3:55PM EDT
A flag raised outside Ottawa City Hall celebrating a national anti-abortion rally has been taken down after outcry from city councillors and members of the public.
A flag-raising ceremony held Thursday morning was attended by several anti-abortion activists. The grey flag included the words “National March for Life Ottawa” to mark the event held on Parliament Hill later in the afternoon.
The city proclaimed Thursday “March for Life Day.” The proclamation has been made in previous years, but city councillors say it’s the first time the rally’s flag was flown at city hall.
Seven councillors spoke out against the flag and demanded that it be taken down immediately.
In a statement, the councillors said all Canadians are entitled to express their views, but that the City of Ottawa’s policy states, “a proclamation will not be issued for matters that … represent individual conviction.”
They added that safe access to abortion is a constitutionally-protected right for women across the country.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson was inundated with angry messages on Twitter.
“My personal opinion has always been that women have the right to choose. I share your concerns & have asked for a review of our flag policy,” Watson responded in a tweet.
Shortly before 3 p.m., Watson wrote that the flag had been removed.
The flag has since been replaced with a City of Ottawa flag.
Councillor Catherine McKenney said she’s always been uncomfortable with the “March for Life Day” proclamations and said the city should no longer make them.
“The proclamation and the flag kind of go hand in hand,” McKenney told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
The flag-raising came at a particularly sensitive time for the city. McKenney said anti-abortion protesters have been harassing women at an Ottawa clinic, and that she recently raised concerns in council about what can be done to protect patients.
“We have got to find a way to protect women who are entering a healthcare clinic,” she said.
In the meantime, she says she’s glad the flag has been taken down.
“The flag for me completely stepped over the line and it should never have been flown.”