Yesterday afternoon (May 15), there was a group of protesters holding up signs with anti-abortion imagery and reportedly impeding traffic. My office and Burlington City Hall had received concerns from residents regarding this. Halton Regional Police Service went to the area and sent my office the reply below.
The Halton Regional Police Service is aware of at least one recent resident complaint regarding public protesters in the City of Burlington holding large signs depicting graphic anti-abortion imagery.
We recognize that these images are offensive to many.
The signs, however, do not violate any sections of the Criminal Code. To be specific, while the signs are very graphic, they do not qualify as hate literature under the Criminal Code. To be deemed hate literature, the content/messaging would have to be directed towards an identifiable group, which is defined as, “Any section of the public distinguished by race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”
The Halton Regional Police Service has encountered similar scenarios when anti-abortion groups conduct public protests outside local high schools and display graphic photos on placards. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does provide groups such as these with freedom of speech protection.
— Halton Regional Police Service