With a vote of four-to-three during its regular meeting last Tuesday, city council denied a request made by the Choice for Life Society to proclaim Celebrate Life Week from Sept. 27 to Oct. 4.
The city has endorsed the proclamation since 2007, but last year pro-choice advocate Carrie Julius spearheaded a challenge and protested outside city hall with half a dozen other women, saying the proclamation violated women’s rights.
Happy with council’s decision for this year, Julius said: “Our municipal leaders were elected to make decisions like these by the voters in their community, and are trusted to consult, consider, and evaluate the information which is presented to them, by any group, before giving the City of Williams Lake’s endorsement.”
During the meeting Tuesday, Mayor Walt Cobb said by proclaiming Choice for Life Week, the city is not violating human rights.
“Under proclamations it says they must be issued in a manner that does not discriminate on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex or sexual orientation,” Cobb said of the human rights code. “This particular proclamation is basically celebrating life so there was no reason under the human rights that we should turn it down.”
In her letter to council requesting the proclamation, Choice for Life Society secretary Cecilia Schaubroeck said this year’s events will include an evening of singing with the seniors at Deni House, an evening for the public to view an educational video, and a life chain.
“We believe it is important that the citizens of Williams Lake hear the message that ‘All Human Life is Precious,” she stated in her letter.
In opposing the proclamation, Coun. Jason Ryll said despite the definition of city policy, it sends a message to the general public that the city takes a position on the topic.
“This is something that government does not need to be involved in,” Ryll said.
Coun. Craig Smith said the link in the letter goes directly to a church site.
”It is not celebrate life, it’s pro-life, there are no ifs ands or buts about it,” Smith added.
Coun. Laurie Walters said it was timely for council to look at the policy.
“I don’t want to say no to this and then I cannot support other proclamations that come forward,” she said.
Chief Executive Officer Darrell Garceau said as the policy presently exists, council is not at liberty to be selective, and could be potentially opening itself up to a legal challenge by denying the proclamation, but said if council wants to change the policy then staff will research that for a future meeting.
By denying the request, council is effectively sending a message that council is shutting down proclamations, Coun. Ivan Bonnell said.