Pro-life banner elicits complaints
A pro-life banner flying on city-owned poles is meeting opposition from local and provincial atheist groups.
The banner is hung on behalf of the Kamloops Pro-Life Society and includes silhouettes of a baby, young girl and elderly woman standing under a tree and includes the phrases: "One life can make a difference" and "Protect human life week."
It went up downtown on Tuesday, October 2, and will hang on the North Shore over Tranquille Road until Oct. 16.
Bill Ligertwood of the Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought sees the banner as a clear violation of city policy on street banners, which states they may not "promote political parties or points of view, religious points of view, commercial ventures, controversial issues or other content that contradicts the human rights codes."
The B.C. Humanists Association has also spoken out against the banner.
"I'm not sure why it even got approved. In my view, it shouldn't have been approved," Ligertwood said.
A photo of the banner has generated plenty of chatter and complaints on the centre's Facebook page — and Ligertwood said he has written to council, asking that the banner be taken down.
Mayor Peter Milobar, however, told KTW the banner was vetted by city lawyers and the city doesn't have grounds to remove it.
"Essentially, this banner — the way it's worded, the way it's structured — it was their [lawyers'] opinion that it would not be in contravention of our policy that we could enforce," he said.
Milobar said the banner has flown from city poles every year since 2009 without generating complaints and was up for five days this year before the city received any messages of concern.
He said complaints about the banner were taken seriously, but "people still have a fundamental right to voice an opinion."
Ligertwood isn't satisfied with that argument.
"Our position is that, no matter what the language is, the organization that's putting it up there is what should count, not necessarily what's on the banner," he said.
"If a white-supremacist group puts up a nice banner that doesn't say what they really are, are you going to put it up anyway?"
Tonia Howell, secretary for the Kamloops Pro-Life Society, told KTW in an email that her group's constitution doesn't mention religion.
While she admits some of the group's members are against abortion and euthanasia because of religious convictions, she said the group frames the issue as one of human rights.
"The message on our banner is a positive one emphasizing the value of every human life and the unique contribution that each of us can make to society," she said.
"It is no more controversial than a banner that would advocate for a disadvantaged group such as those with Down Syndrome — not all of society sees these people as worthy of life."
Howell said the banner has actually hung in the city for eight years, noting this is the first time the group has heard complaints. But, she said, the group has a right to voice its views even if they aren't universally accepted.
"We of pro-life persuasion pay city taxes, as do those who are opposed," she said. "If the Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought wishes to have a banner displayed, their payment of tax dollars should permit them to do so."
In August, Kelowna city council decided to stop flying courtesy flags at its city hall rather than fly a controversial pro-life flag.
Milobar said if the city wanted to keep this banner off its poles, it would have to follow a similar course of action. And, he added, he is comfortable leaving the city's policy as it is.
"From my perspective, it doesn't threaten me," he said.
"I don't agree with their position by any means but, at the same time, that banner is not going to make me change my opinion, either."