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‘Unacceptable’: Councillor wants pro-life flyers concealed, warning attached

There's growing concern over the appearance of graphic pro-life pamphlets in Calgary neighbourhoods.

Graphic literature delivered to Calgary doorsteps and mailboxes would have to be enveloped with warning messages should a proposed bylaw change be approved.

The item will come to Thursday’s Executive Committee meeting, where councillors will review it for technical merit. If approved, it would move on to a full meeting of council.

Coun. Jennifer Wyness is spearheading the motion, which is co-signed by seven other councillors and the mayor. It’s in response to growing frustration over graphic pro-life pamphlets put in mailboxes or tucked in doors showing aborted fetuses.

Wyness said she’d heard more about the problem while she was door knocking during the 2021 election.

“The image that’s in the media that they’re putting on people’s doorsteps is unacceptable,” Wyness told LiveWire Calgary.

“Honestly, it’s a distorted image. It’s posed, it’s zoomed in. There are many people in the community that are trying to conceive children or have suffered a miscarriage that are greeted with this image that just traumatizes them.”

The Ward 2 councillor is also concerned about the collateral damage to children. The pamphlets are blown around in neighbourhoods and often picked up by kids.

“It also opens the doors for families to actually engage in sex education before parents may have been ready, or that child is old enough to engage in that conversation,” Wyness said.

“I also hear from parents that their kids are having nightmares after seeing those images.”

Problem across Calgary

This issue isn’t confined to Wyness’s ward. Other councillors have posted concern about the graphic brochures in their areas.

Citizens have often resorted to social media to express their displeasure with the leaflet drops in their areas.

The website address on a brochure provided to LiveWire Calgary is redirected to the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform. This organization’s administrative office is located in Calgary. 

A call was made, and a message was left with this organization, hoping for comment on the proposed bylaw amendment.  That call hasn’t yet been returned. We will update the story once they respond.

It’s not city council’s first attempt to manage the message of these groups. In 2019, the city moved forward on a safe zone around schools where harmful expression would be prohibited.  In 2020, a bylaw amendment was enacted.

This bylaw amendment would require flyers showing fetal images to be concealed and include a viewer discretion warning.

Wyness said she doesn’t want to inhibit these groups’ ability to get their message out there. What she wants are the same standards of concealment as other things like cigarette packages, pornography, marijuana or other materials.

“Society does have a standard when it comes to displays of poor and grotesque material,” she said.  

“And for some reason, we’ve let this slide. Enough is enough.”