Anti-abortion meeting at Coquitlam library draws protest

Activists worry U.S. anti-abortion sentiments are coming to Canada

Protesters turned up at Coquitlam Public Library’s Poirier branch Tuesday evening as an anti-abortion group was holding a planning meeting to strategize for the upcoming federal election.

Right Now had said it was launching its Operation 50 Tour, which is targeting 50 ridings across Canada with the intention of electing anti-abortion members of Parliament. The group met in the Nancy Bennett Room at the Poirier branch but were met by more than a dozen people protesting outside the building.

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“What’s going on in the [United] States is a big driving force,” said Victoria Schuetze, a Coquitlam resident and member of a pro-choice group called WARRIORS. She added: “The fact that throughout history women have always been treated unfairly. It is about time that we stand up for our right. We are all about reproductive rights.”

Anti-abortion meeting at Coquitlam library draws protest_2
Two of the protesters Tuesday evening outside Coquitlam Public Library’s Poirier branch, where the anti-abortion group Right Now was meeting. - Gary McKenna

The Tri-City News contacted Right Now but a spokesperson for the organization did not return a request for an interview. Right Now has not said if it is supporting any candidates for MP in the Tri-Cities’ two ridings.

According to the group’s website, it has been holding meetings across the country since the beginning of April, including stops in Burnaby Monday night and an expected event in Langley Wednesday. It will also be in Aldergrove today (Thursday) and Mission Friday.

Some of the protesters outside the library Tuesday in Coquitlam said they had been at the meeting in Burnaby the night before.

“Wherever they are, we will be,” Schuetze said.

Michelle Sikora, who is from the Sunshine Coast and said she founded the WARRIORS chapter in B.C., said the groups against anyone looking to limit women’s access to abortion services in Canada.

“They can’t take it away from us but they can restrict access and that is already happening in other provinces,” she said. “It can make it really difficult.”

Executive director of the Coquitlam Public Library Todd Gnissios. - File Photo

Todd Gnissios, the executive director of the Coquitlam Public Library, said he had been informed that some pro-choice activists would likely turn up at the event. “We have been receiving an email and phone campaign asking the library to cancel the booking,” he told The Tri-City News Tuesday.

But he said cancelling the booking would contravene the Canadian Federation of Library Associations’ statement on intellectual freedom, which says libraries are responsible for safeguarding “constitutionally protected expressions of knowledge, imagination, ideas and opinion.”

Right Now is a private group that paid the standard business rate for its room rental and the booking is not sponsored or supported by the library in any way, he added.

“We accept that the topic of this room booking will cause distress to many,” Gnissios wrote in an email to residents who have expressed concern about the booking. “Nonetheless, the supporters of this group have a right to express their thoughts and ideas within legislated restrictions.”

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