OTTAWA (CCN) — Cyril Winter, 70, the first person to face charges for violating Ontario’s abortion bubble zone law, died in hospital March 9 following heart surgery at the Ottawa Heart Institute.
Winter had protested regularly outside the door of the Morgentaler abortion facility in downtown Ottawa on Bank St., wearing a sandwich board featuring graphic photos of aborted unborn babies.
Police arrested Winter twice in February for violating the exclusion zone around the abortion facility. He was due to appear in an Ottawa courtroom March 23 on five charges.
He was admitted March 5 to the Heart Institute for a stent operation to clear his coronary arteries. He posted on Facebook he expected to be “back on the job” on the following Monday.
“Stent day but no guarantee because I could get bumped by emergencies,” he posted on Facebook March 9. “Reassuring to know that I am not an emergency — read: ‘not critical.’ ‘Love is patient....’Come Lord Jesus. Cy.”
His brother Chris Winter posted on Facebook that Cy died that night at 11:07 pm.
News of his death saddened Ottawa’s pro-life community.
“A hero has died,” Ruth Shaw of the National Campus Life Network posted on Facebook. “Cyril Winters, [a well-known] Ottawa pro-life activist, has passed away. Cyril gave his life to shining a spotlight on the reality of abortion.”
“He really understood what abortion was and he gave his life to trying to end it,” she wrote. “He was known for his perseverance and dedication to pro-life work. It was not a hobby. It was his life. May we all take example from his courage.”
“It’s a shock, but his health wasn’t that great,” said Ottawa’s 40 Days for Life co-ordinator Wanda Hartlin. The 40 Days for Life participants always stayed across the street from the Morgentaler facility, engaged in silent prayer and did not allow graphic signs.
Hartlin said she noticed Winter was reducing his hours protesting in front of the clinic. “It was hard on him,” she said. “Having had a heart attack myself, I know when it gets really gold it does affect you.”
“Cy had been downtown for six or seven years,” said Debbie Duval, National Capital organizer for Campaign Life Coalition (CLC). “Cy was very smart and cunning. He knew the law and never broke it, despite the harassment he received.”
Winter had his friends and his detractors, and some who differed with him on strategy because of his use of graphic images, Duval said. “He will be missed.”
“I know nothing about him personally, other than he was as determined as a bull to keep his freedom of expression,” said Paul Lauzon, a researcher with Ottawa’s CLC office.
ARPA Canada broke the news after their legal counsel John Sikkema reached out to Winter’s lawyer “to see how the case was progressing, and what steps were next,” said ARPA Canada’s director of law and policy André Schutten. “His lawyer responded to inform us Cy had passed away in the hospital.”
“It was really surprising to us,” he said.
Sikkema said ARPA Canada was interested in Winter’s case because it had following the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act through the Ontario legislature. “We’ve been tracking it,” said Sikkema. “Obviously we think it’s an unconstitutional overreach.”
Police arrested Winter Feb. 7 in front of the abortion facility. He 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.
Two days later, he returned wearing a sign saying “God save Canada’s Charter Rights.”
On Feb. 27, he posted on Facebook: “Keep praying as I start my evangelism today at 240 Sparks St. (Bank St. side). I will hand out religious tracts while displaying my sign: ‘I Love Jesus Loves You..’ Let’s see. Come, Lord Jesus!”