Graphic flyers of fetuses prompts new regulation proposal in Hamilton


Published November 3, 2023 at 12:14 pm

Hamilton city hall politics

The distribution of graphic flyers depicting aborted fetuses in Hamilton has prompted calls to regulate the practice.

Ward One councillor Maureen Wilson put forward a motion to regulate the graphic flyers after receiving numerous complaints about them from her constituents. He introduced her motion at a planning committee meeting held on Oct. 31. Ward 13 councillor Alex Wilson, seconded the motion.

“These unsolicited flyers are causing harm to some recipients, including children and youth who are exposed to the flyers while collecting the mail and individuals who have experienced pregnancy loss,” Wilson’s motion read, “residents have also expressed concerns with the same graphic imagery being carried, held or displayed in public spaces.”

The motion directs city staff to study the feasibility of a plan to regulate the distribution of these images. It calls for a by-law proposal to be submitted by no later than next spring that requires any image of an aborted fetus, or that claims to be an aborted fetus, to be covered up.

It further must require such flyers to be sealed in an envelope or package with the name and address of the sender and a warning about the contents. This by-law would not apply to anything sent via Canada Post or which was delivered with permission of the addressee.

Additionally, the motion calls on the city to explore to possibility of of regulating similar imagery held up or displayed in public. The study would take cues from communities who have already instituted such by-laws like Calgary, Ingersoll, London and Woodstock.

Councillor Maureen Wilson stressed to the committee that her constituents have complained of these images causing harm in the community for several years. She echoed her motion saying such images cause “severe harm” to children who encounter the images and to those who have lost a pregnancy.

“It is very much a triggering event,” Wilson said, “and it continues to be a triggering event each time that encounter is made.” As such Wilson did not request her constituents who complianed to delegate to the committee.

Ward 15 Councillor Ted McMeekan concurred saying, “This isn’t the kind of issue you need to delegate on. It’s pretty straight up. It’s harmful. It’s unpleasant. It’s more than unpleasant and it needs to be regulated in my opinion.” McMeekan additionally felt the proposal carved out enough protections from freedom of expression while protecting residents.

Councillor Alex Wilson described this imagery as a deliberate attempt to make people feel “uncomfortable” and “unsafe.” He felt people who distribute these images are attempting to test the limits of the law. While the do this, Wilson believes “it’s so important we stand with residents, we understand when harm is being done, and we look at the tools in our toolbox.”

Ward Seven councillor Esther Pauls said these graphic materials go beyond the abortion debate and that the by-law would not favour any side. The issue before the committee was specifically abvout imagery which does impact residents, Pauls said, and as such put her support behind the motion.

Wilson’s motion recieve unanimous support from the committee passing 10-0. It will therefore go before the full city council in their next meeting on Nov. 8.


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