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Graphic anti-abortion mailer upsets some Vaughan residents

Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau not backing down from party stance
June 19, 2015
By Adam Martin-Robbins

Silvio Panza believes in the right to free speech and he’s not squeamish, but for him the graphic anti-abortion mail-out delivered to his Woodbridge home this week goes way too far.

“This is over the top. It’s just too graphic,” said the 48-year-old father of three after receiving the hand-delivered postcards at his Weston Rd and Hwy. 7 area home Thursday morning.

The postcards, which have a picture of Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau next to an image of a bloody fetus, are part of a nationwide campaign dubbed No2Trudeau that aims to defeat his party in this fall’s election.

The postcards point to a website that asks viewers to click two options: “Are you pro-life?” or “Are you pro-choice?”

Those who click the former see a video about Trudeau and abortion; those who click the latter view anti-abortion information.

The material has also been distributed in other areas of the city and neighbouring Richmond Hill over the past week.

Panza said he’s especially concerned for children who might see the pictures of an aborted fetus.

He even called the police, but says they told him that since no laws have been broken, there’s nothing they can do.

“Every house on this street has one of these brochures and there’s an elementary school across the street,” he said. “It’s pretty damned disgusting. I’ve been around the block and I’m desensitized to violence, but even by my standards, this is over the top.”

Several people in Richmond Hill who received the pamphlet share his view.

“I’m not a very squeamish person but this was just too graphic,” Courtney Clarke said. “It was literally the most disturbing thing I’ve seen in my life.”

Kara Rappos said her nine-year-old did see it and the Richmond Hill mom was forced to explain the images to her daughter.

“I am shocked that this piece of mail is being distributed door-to-door,” she said.

Others expressed similar views on social media, questioning whether the federal Conservative party was behind it.

The National Citizens Coalition, at one time led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has launched a “Say No To Trudeau” campaign, but Michael Parsa, the Richmond Hill Conservative candidate, said his party is not connected in any way to the pro-life postcard campaign.

“I’m not in favour of it. It wasn’t in good taste. I’m all in favour of free speech, but it was very disturbing,” he said.

Vaughan federal Liberal candidate Francesco Sorbara agrees.

“This is absolutely disgusting,” he said. “It has no place in the political or social realm and it is disappointing to see.”

Maaike Rosendal, campus outreach director for the Canadians for Bioethical Reform, spoke for the No2Trudeau campaign from the group’s headquarters in Calgary.

She said the project, the biggest pro-life campaign in Canadian history, is a combined effort of Campaign Life Coalition and Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform and not affiliated in any way with the Conservatives.

Rosendal acknowledged the postcards have upset parents.

“It is a shame that born children have to come across the violence that is inflected on pre-born children around the world,” she said. “We are doing this because we care about the children.”

The shocking images are how the activists make their point, she said.

Rosendal said the group plans to distribute more than one million flyers to 25 selected ridings across the country.

In Ontario, in addition to Vaughan and Richmond Hill, postcards are being delivered in Oakville, Burlington, Mississauga and Etobicoke.

The campaign is funded by private donors and concerned citizens, at a cost of $12,000 per riding, she said.

Alan Middleton, professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business, said the campaign may be successful at shocking people and generating talk.

“But, beyond that, it is not so clear if they’re successful at eliciting support for their position,” he said.

The campaign will likely reinforce the views of those who are already anti-abortionists or anti-Trudeau, Middleton added, and it may have a marginal effect among others.

“But on the other end, it will serve to infuriate people for using this device,” he said.

For his part, Trudeau says his party won't back away from its position on abortion.

“I’m very proud that we’re putting forward a positive campaign that doesn’t use fear, intimidation or negativity and nastiness to try and earn people’s trust,” the Liberal leader said during a stop in Maple Thursday afternoon. “And, further, I’m very, very unequivocal about the fact that the Liberal party supports women’s rights and women’s right to choose. We are the party of the charter, we will always defend people’s rights.”