Why we're seeing more anti-abortion protests in Kamloops and the Okanagan | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Why we're seeing more anti-abortion protests in Kamloops and the Okanagan

Pro-life supporters gathered in Kelowna for the Life Chain event which takes place across North America on the first Sunday of every October.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Kelowna Right to Life Society
October 15, 2019 - 7:32 AM

If you’ve been noticing more anti-abortion protests than usual in your city — it’s all by design.

Last week, a lengthy prayer chain down Harvey Avenue in Kelowna included a number of protesters waving religious and anti-abortion signs. In Kamloops, a new anti-abortion banner was hung on Victoria Street, while ralliers are meeting near the hospital every day for over a month.

Both events coincide with the world-wide 40 Days For Life protest.

The global movement is typically in October, but participants in Canadian cities, such as Kamloops and Kelowna, claim the cool weather and long hours deterred volunteers from showing up.

“We tried one in Kelowna a number of years ago but we didn't have the number of people to make that happen,” Marlon Bartram of the Kelowna Right to Life Society says. “It's supposed to be for 24 hours a day for 40 days straight and I think a lot of groups have trimmed them down to 12 hours a day.”

Bartram says a 40-day process is significant biblically, and with many of the pro-life supporters being of the Christian or Catholic faith, they have chosen to commit that amount of time of fasting, prayer, and protesting against abortion.

The single-day event that saw Kelowna’s Harvey Avenue filled with protesters is called the Life Chain, which also took place in Kamloops and Vernon on Sunday. Hundreds of protesters across the three cities participated in the North American event.

Tonia Howell of the Kamloops Pro Life Society says that the numbers of participants for the Life Chain have dwindled in Kamloops over the years.

“It started out with almost 1,000 people but now we have around 100. We had more than 100 this year,” Howell says.

Howell says that they have faced vandalism and aggression during the Life Chain and 40-day event, but they continue to protest against abortion.

“We stood on this side and they stood on that side,” Howell explains. “They followed us around the corner where we had our little celebration on the last day, they were vicious in their words but there was no physical violence.”

Tonia Howell, left, and Kathy Dahl, second from left, are joined by churchgoers from various congregations across Kamloops for their Choose Life 40 Day Prayer Vigil.
Tonia Howell, left, and Kathy Dahl, second from left, are joined by churchgoers from various congregations across Kamloops for their Choose Life 40 Day Prayer Vigil.

Some of the pro-life supporters have decided to extend their campaign, like a group of churchgoers in Kamloops who have created the Choose Life 40 Day Prayer Vigil, their own spin on 40 Days For Life campaign.The Kamloops group is gathering every afternoon outside of Sacred Heart Cathedral within view of the Royal Inland Hospital.

Organizer and spokesperson Kathy Dahl says that their goal is for people heading to the hospital for an abortion to see the lineup of sign-carrying protestors. They also protest assisted dying, which is another reason for their rally placement.

But the proximity to the hospital they seek is understandably part of the problem for women who don't want to be harassed for their choice. There is typically a legally-enforced buffer zone around hospitals and clinics. 

Ruth Mellor, a member of the Kelowna and District Pro Choice Action Society says although people have a right to counter-protest, they encourage positive interactions. Mellor says many people in Kelowna are annoyed by the pro-life protesters, and notes that sometimes the pro-life messages and signage can hurt those who have faced other difficulties.

“For people who have had a miscarriage, sometimes the rallies or even some of the billboards are really hurtful to them,” Mellor says. “They've lost a fetus and they're still upset about it and then they have these signs of killing your baby.”

Mellor points out the pro-life supporters are so focused on the fetus, that they forget about the life of the person carrying it.

“People forget that abortions have always happened, and often people died. That's the part they always seem to forget, the pro-life group,” Mellor says. “They are something that people are desperate enough to want and it's a difficult choice.”

Mellor says although the protesters are often the main source of annoyance, the signage they carry and install often causes deep issues. She says after a university pro-life protest, some students needed to get counseling after seeing the graphic images displayed.

Two pro-life signs in Kelowna have resulted in complaints made to Ad Standards, such as this one which referenced late-term abortions, and this one which states "Abortion hurts men too." The city of Kamloops installed a banner downtown which was paid for by the Kamloops Pro-Life Society.


Bartram, Dahl, and Howell all say that although they have heard stories of people choosing to opt-out of abortion, none have met anybody personally who have been swayed by their actions. Still, the Kamloops group will continue to meet every day until Nov. 5. They will be outside of the Sacred Heart Cathedral at 3rd Avenue and Columbia Street from around 4 p.m. until 6 p.m.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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