OTTAWA (CCN) - Cyril Winter faces eight charges for violating Ontario's abortion bubble zone law prohibiting pro-life protests within 50 to 150 metres of abortion facilities.
On Feb. 7 police arrested Winter who was wearing a sandwich board that featured a picture of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Under the picture were the words: "Freedom of Expression and Religion. No censorship."
A crucifix dangled from the top of the sign.
On Friday, Winter said he returned to the area near the Morgentaler abortion clinic with a sign reading, "God save Canada's Charter Rights," and was charged with an additional three offences under the act.
"All I did was walk around the block," Winter said. "I didn't say anything to anyone. There was no abortion talk. No praying outside the clinic. The clinic called the cops."
Ottawa police would not reveal the man's name or the exact nature of the charges.
"We don't have the wording yet," said an Ottawa police media spokesperson, who said they were waiting for information from the Crown on the wording related to offences under Ontario's Safe Access to Abortion Services Act that came into effect Feb. 1.
The man was released after promising to appear in court in March, but no date has been set yet, the Ottawa police spokesperson said.
If convicted, Winter could face a fine as high as $5,000 and up to six months in jail for a first offence.
John Sikkema, legal counsel for the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada, pointed out in a blog post, "it is now an offence, punishable by punitive fines and prison to 'attempt to advise or persuade' someone to refrain from having an abortion, or to 'attempt to inform a person concerning issues related to abortion services,' or to 'attempt to perform an act of disapproval (of abortion)' in any way, if the attempt is made within 50 m (or up to 150m of an abortion clinic."
On Feb. 1, when the law came into effect, he noticed protesters in front of the Morgentaler facility on Bank St. One woman had a sign saying, "I do not regret my abortion."
"Erase the word 'not' and she could be arrested," Sikkema said.
"If you are charged with 'attempting to inform' someone about 'issues related to abortion,' you cannot defend yourself by proving that the facts you shared about abortion or alternatives to abortion are true," Sikkema said. "Nor does it help you that someone was relieved that you told her about a pregnancy care centre. Nor does the fact that your letters to the local pharmacist asking her not to dispense abortifacients were non-threatening, well-reasoned, and factually correct."
Before the law came into effect, Winter wore a sandwich board portraying graphic pictures of aborted babies and demonstrated several times a week right outside the door of the Morgentaler facility on Bank St. He has never been part of any organized pro-life demonstrations, such as 40 Days for Life, which always prayed across the street from the clinic.