Police in New Glasgow, N.S., are investigating an alleged breach of a law banning anti-abortion protests near health-care facilities after a demonstration last month that was reportedly approved by one of their officers.
The Campaign Life Coalition held a protest on East River Road across from the Aberdeen Hospital as part of an annual day of "peaceful and prayerful pro-life witness" on Oct. 3.
Const. Ken MacDonald, a spokesperson for the New Glasgow Regional Police, said an investigation was launched following a complaint received about a protest and police are consulting with Crown prosecutors. He declined to provide more details, citing the ongoing investigation.
Megan Boudreau, who successfully petitioned last year to restrict anti-abortion protests through so-called bubble zone legislation, told CBC News she lodged the complaint with police shortly after the protest.
"I feel exhausted," she said in an interview. "I thought this was over. I thought I was done working hard for this."
Boudreau brought her petition to the provincial NDP last year, which was tabled by MLA Claudia Chender, along with a bill banning anti-abortion protests within a 50-metre radius of health-care centres, pharmacies and doctors' offices. The previous Liberal government turned that bill into law in March 2020.
When she arrived outside the Aberdeen Hospital last month, Boudreau said she immediately approached the protesters to tell them they were breaking the law. They responded police had given them approval to be there.
Video captured by Boudreau on the day of the protest shows several people standing just north of the East River Road and Park Street intersection, on the sidewalk opposite the hospital. Many of them hold signs, including ones that read "Abortion Hurts Women" and "Abortion Kills Babies."
The anti-abortion protesters are separated from the southeast corner of the hospital by a four-lane road. It's not clear how far they are from the edge of the hospital's property. Boudreau estimated it at about 20 metres.
The Campaign Life Coalition did not make organizers of the New Glasgow event available for comment, but a staff member from the group's national headquarters also said they received police permission.
Boudreau said police followed up on her complaint with a phone call days later and confirmed an officer who didn't know about the bubble zone law gave the coalition the green light to protest.
"Clearly, they're not communicating new laws in an effective way," said Boudreau.
MacDonald said it is incumbent on officers, generally, to know the laws of the land.
"An officer has a duty to be informed in terms of what laws are established," he said.
Boudreau's video shows some protesters stationed on the edge of the First Baptist Church property. The church's pastor, John Dunnett, told CBC News by email his church was not involved in organizing the protest, but gave the organizers permission to use the parking lot.
The PC government passed an additional piece of bubble zone legislation this fall that bars any form of non-labour protest outside health-care facilities. That bill, which established a 50-metre "safe-access bubble zone," was introduced on Oct. 14.
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