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Police criticized over handling of protests outside Morgentaler clinic

Last Updated Apr 21, 2017 at 12:27 pm EDT

Anti-abortion demonstrators rally on Parliament Hill as part of the March for Life in May 2013. (1310 NEWS)

OTTAWA — After an opinion column that slammed Ottawa Police and the way it responds to ever-present protesters outside a downtown abortion clinic, the capital’s police chief says his officers take all calls for service seriously.

A city by-law requires protesters to stay on the opposite side of the street from the clinic. But anti-abortion protesters, many of whom carry extremely gory and graphic signs, routinely stand outside the clinic’s entrance. Ottawa’s Morgentaler Clinic tells Postmedia, patients trying to enter the clinic have been harassed and intimidated, while some have been assaulted — including being spit on.

In December 2016, Ottawa Police issued a trespass notice to a man who had entered the clinic. When he returned the next day, that man was charged with mischief.

The clinic’s director of operations says police have threatened to charge clinic staff with obstruction or harassment if they continue to call for help enforcing the by-law.

In a written statement issued late Thursday, Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau says his officers routinely respond to calls for service at the clinic.

“Our police officers routinely monitor this demonstration, do respond to calls for service, and take action that is appropriate in the circumstances,” Bordeleau said in the statement. “We continually respond to calls for service at this location, most related to protesters and graphic signs.”

“All reported incidents are taken seriously and investigated,” Bordeleau wrote.

Toronto’s Morgentaler Clinic has a bubble zone — rules that permanently keep protesters a set distance away from the clinic — as do clinics in Quebec, Newfoundland and BC.

Chief Bordeleau says police don’t have the power to institute a bubble zone, and that if the Ottawa clinic wants one, it would have to be pursued through the courts.

The clinic tells The Toronto Star a bubble zone would be difficult and legally costly to obtain.

 

NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify details of the claims of harassment, intimidation and assault.

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