Ottawa City Hall flies…and it’s just part of a pattern

Yesterday, the city and the mayor got some blowback for the decision to fly a pro-life flag on what the mayor has proclaimed “Respect for Life” day. The response by citizens and councillors was so strong and swift, the city quickly lowered the offensive thing and blamed it all on an “individual”.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the mayor has declared May 11 “Respect for Life” day. Each year, the March for Life descends on Ottawa, as concerned citizens and roped-in students bus themselves to our fair city and take to the streets. Noxious, oppressive views aside (and the fact that it’s kind of a school assignment for many), the March for Life is an example of citizens (and maybe some non-citizens, who knows) demonstrating their constitutionally-protected freedom of expression. (And living through the traffic disruptions is just part of being an Ottawan.)

Our government should accommodate all such demonstrations and protests. That’s kind of the point of democracy.

Our government should not join in.

The mayor is always quick to say that he does not support the views of the demonstrates. He claims to be pro-choice, and he claims to unequivocally support a woman’s right to choose. His statements and the city’s actions do not reflect such a stance.

Being pro-choice (or pro-life, for that matter) is a political stance. Being pro-choice isn’t about taking a stance on abortion, pre se; it’s about taking a stance on how the power of government should be used to police women’s choices and women’s bodies. Saying you’re pro-choice–even believing in the cause–is meaningless if you actively support the pro-life movement, a movement that seeks to use the crushing power of government to rule over women’s reproductive activities.

Every year, Watson makes this proclamation. The words may change (the proclamations aren’t easy to actually find online), but the proclamations persist. Every year, there’s blowback. Every year, there’s a counter-protest. But despite his self-avowed devotion to the pro-choice movement, he never does anything else but make these proclamations on May 11.

The mayor will be quick to say that it’s a human rights issue. The city can’t pick and choose which proclamations to make. He says his hands are tied. This is, of course, a lie.

He needn’t make any proclamations. Other cities have done away with them; we could, too. If you never make any proclamations, you’re never discriminating against one group. Everyone’s treated the same. This would mean fewer photo-ops and feel-good press conferences, but it would keep the city out of the pro-life movement.

By his actions, the mayor has demonstrated that making proclamations are more important to him than his pro-choice views.

The proclamation is hard to find, but according to Life Site News and other pro-choice publications, it reads, in part:

…thousands of people from across Canada and the United States…come to Parliament Hill…bring awareness for the need for life-affirming solutions.

Now, this may not be the most trustworthy publication (but it did break the flag story, yesterday), so, grain of salt and all that, but…

These aren’t the dispassionate words of acknowledgement deployed only to meet bureaucratic obligations. This proclamation has allegedly adopted the language and viewpoint of the March, itself. If this is true, it is parroting the claims of the movement and, thus, lending more legitimacy to its political position.

But whatever the specific wording, the mayor has allowed the city to become a mouthpiece of the pro-life movement (if only for one day a year).

If this were the only time the city worked against the rights of women, maybe we could give it a pass (no, we couldn’t, really, but it’d be slightly less egregious). But in the past months, we have learned all about how the city is unwilling to provide adequate protections to women seeking information or services from the Morgentaler clinic.

The city won’t provide a safety zone. Police aren’t treating the aggression, violence and threats of pro-life protesters seriously. And the city is giving them the freedom to park their cars on Sparks Street, a pedestrian mall.

Yes, yes. The mayor has since said that he supports the work of the clinic, and the chief has said that our cops do take these matters seriously, but the evidence just isn’t there.

If you believe that the approval for raising the flag was just made by some random individual (I’m dubious), you can certainly believe why that person rubber-stamped the flag-raising (and sunrise ceremony!); the city has consistently displayed an allegiance with the pro-life movement.

This isn’t an anomaly. This is a continuation of the standard practice. The city and the mayor have institutionalized Ottawa’s pro-life position, even if unofficially.

The mayor has joined in with those protesting the raising of the flag, but this situation is a direct result of his decisions and his commitments. If he wants to claim any pro-choice bona fides, he needs to lead the reaction against the institutionalized pro-life stance of the city, rather than enabling it.

Of course, that might cost him some votes.

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