Alex Berns

Upset residents say ‘enough is enough’ for abortion protests

Residents of View Royal housing complex becoming increasingly frustrated with weekly abortion vigil just steps from their front doors

Residents of a housing complex in View Royal are becoming increasingly frustrated with weekly abortion vigil just steps from their front doors.

At least three residents of the converted motel at the intersection of Island Highway and Helmcken Road said they’re tired of having the protestors out on what feels like their front yard.

The protestors are there because of the nearby Vancouver Island Women’s Clinic in View Royal Square, which performs abortions, among other sexual health services.

The 40 Days for Life protestors are there with signs to pray and talk to anyone who approaches them every Thursday morning.

Every year, the group also holds two 40-days vigils in which protestors march for 12 hours each day.

Most of the old motel’s residents have no backdoor and their front door opens directly into their living area. Because the protestors are so close it feels like they’re peering in on the residents’ private lives.

“Enough is enough. Any kind of protest, you make your statement and you go away,” resident Janice Roberts said. “There’s no respect for anybody but them.”

Hale Harlingten lives in the corner unit, his front door about six metres from where the protestors stand.

“I have a small place. They’re in front of it. The whole world’s looking at me and I just want a little bit of peace and quiet to come out here and sit,” Harlingten said. “They’ve been there long enough now that I think every car in the city has gone by the corner and knows their opinion. The only purpose they can be there for is to cause a disturbance. So we get upset.”

The campaign co-ordinator for 40 Days for Life, Alex Berns, said his group has had previous altercations with residents – Roberts in particular.

“(Roberts) has had several conversations with our members, all of them highly spirited,” Berns said. “Wherever she has been and what makes her the way she is today, we include her in our prayers too.”

OUR VIEW: Time for vigil to move on

Last Thursday, the tension got to a point where a small altercation took place.

As Berns took a walk, which he said he often does to ease back pain, he went around the corner down the Island Highway where he said Roberts approached him.

She said she asked him to leave and stood her ground. They bumped each other – both claim the other person was at fault. Neither was injured.

However, Berns called the police, believing the altercation to be a form of harassment.

RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Max Fossum said it’s unlikely police will recommend charges.

“It’s one word against the other word really,” Fossum said.

Fossum said the protestors have a right to be there unless View Royal says otherwise.

There have been some minor incidents in the past involving the protest, but nothing major, Fossum added.

View Royal chief administrative officer Kim Anema said there is little the town can do to remove the vigil unless they are disrupting traffic or causing a safety hazard. Even with complaints from residents, the protestors have a protected right to protest so long as they stick to the rules.

Anema said he understands the concerns surrounding the vigil and View Royal will continue to monitor the situation.

Berns said his group is there to protest abortions and to talk to people about the dangers of post-abortive trauma and depression. The protestors say they have been subjected to harassment in the past. One morning they arrived at their usual spot to find a pumpkin with a coat hanger stuck in it.

Another morning a coat hangar had been hung from a signpost behind where they stand. Recently they have arrived to find eggs smashed on the ground and ketchup spread around. The residents of the housing complex said they know nothing about those incidents. They plan to send a complaint in writing to View Royal council.

Vancouver Island Women’s Clinic did not wish to comment. The next 40-day vigil starts Sept. 26.

kwells@goldstreamgazette.com