new brunswick

New Brunswickers Rally for Choice

Photo of crowd rallying in front of the legislature in Fredericton

photo: Alyse Stuart

by Sorcha Beirne

April 10th was a sad day for many New Brunswickers, as the Morgentaler Clinic announced it’s plans to close in July due to lack of government funding during an early morning press conference. This was an announcement that many knew would have to come someday, as the provincial government had been refusing funding for years.

Exactly a week later, on April 17th, over 500 people protested in front of the New Brunswick legislative building. The rally was organized by the Fredericton Youth Feminists and became known as A Rally for Our Right to Accessible Abortion. Protesters demanded a repeal of regulation 84-20, which states that abortions may only be covered in hospitals if deemed “medically necessary” in writing by two doctors, and demanded funding for the Morgentaler Clinic.

The legislature security fenced off the steps to the building, not allowing speakers to stand where originally planned. Speakers ended up having to use a step-stool. The protesters booed at the legislature when they heard this, screaming that it’s our building too. Among the speakers were NDP leader, Dominic Cardy; and Green Party leader, David Coon; who both showed their support for the cause and both agreed that the New Brunswick Premier, David Alward, could remove the regulation with the stroke of a pen.

Liberal leader Brian Gallant, agreed that he thought the two doctor rule was excessive and said he was encouraging the government to review the regulation. Protesters let out screams of “Not enough!”, “Repeal, not review” and booed at the leader. He left immediately after his speech, not staying for the rest of the rally.

People drove to the rally from all over New Brunswick and even other provinces like Nova Scotia and PEI. Colleen MacQuarrie, a researcher for the University of PEI, spoke about how the closure of the Morgentaler Clinic affected access in PEI, as there are no hospitals or clinics that provide abortion services in the province.

The rally-goers held signs and coat hangers in the air as they listened to speeches, many getting emotional. Before leaving, many left their signs on the lawn and hung coat hangers with messages for the legislature on the fence. Protesters wore pins with the rally’s slogan “We have the law, we need the access.” and tweeted during the event with #NBProchoice. The rally made it clear that there is a strong, powerful support for abortion access in New Brunswick and that the provincial government will not be able to stay silent forever.

More solidarity rallies are scheduled for next week in Ottawa, Charlottetown and Montreal. Get the details here or organize your own and add it to the list.
Posted on by Sorcha Beirne in Can-Con, Politics Leave a comment

This Is My Rally Cry: #NBProchoice

Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton photoby Kathleen Pye. Originally posted at Fem2pt0. Cross-posted with the author’s permission.

It takes a special kind of person to work at an Abortion Clinic.

You need to possess just the right combination of kindness and compassion, combined with courage, determination, and a whole lot of humility. Not something you can put on a resume, and I highly doubt it’s something you can learn from an overpriced webinar. It’s something you’re born with. Perhaps better worded – it’s something you’re born to do.

I first met the wonderful women at the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick during my counselling psychology training program. I had recently decided that I was a feminist and wanted to learn more about abortion services. Despite my naivety I had good intentions; I knew the clinic was a source of contention within the community, and I felt compelled to learn about it.

But if I’m honest, there was another rationale for my desire to train as a counsellor at the clinic, although not one that I consciously recognized until my placement had completed: I wanted to better understand my internal conflict with being prochoice.

I grew up attending Catholic schools in an upper middle class community – the land of privilege. I was never lacking for anything and had a great education. I went to Sunday-School and I hated going to church, but only because it took me away from playing basketball for an hour a week.

I had also known that I was adopted long before it ever registered to me as being different. And just for clarity’s sake: despite how many people try to convince you that being adopted makes you ‘no different than anyone else’ it’s just not true. Being adopted does make you different. This is neither good nor bad – it just is. It’s a fact.

And with this difference comes the inevitable struggle with the ‘prochoice/antichoice’ debate. We are told that we can’t support abortion; we weren’t aborted, after all. We should be grateful. We should want to save other ‘adoptable children’. We are ‘gifts from God’. We were the ‘lucky ones’. We were ‘loved by our mothers right from the start’. These are all antichoice catch-phrases, told to me by the overtly uncritical. Read more

Posted on by Kathleen Pye in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics Leave a comment

Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic Forced To Close. How You Can Help.

Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton photoby Jarrah Hodge

Today the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick announced it will be forced to close its doors at the end of July, after a 20-year long battle with the provincial and federal governments to get the funding it should be entitled to under the Canada Health Act.

This will seriously jeopardize the already limited access to reproductive health care in New Brunswick and PEI, putting lives at risk.

Activists are already starting to organize to call on the provincial and federal governments to save the clinic and deal with some of the larger issues that have led to this situation. Here at Gender Focus we know how important these services are to people in Atlantic Canada and we’ll keep you posted on how you can show your support.

Here are three things you can do right now:


  1. Sign the Change.Org petition calling on the government to fund services at the Morgentaler Clinic
  2. Tweet a message of support using the #NBProChoice hashtag
  3. Write a letter to your Member of Parliament (find out their contact info here). You can use this sample letter drafted by a local activist and former clinic volunteer, but if you can, it’s best to rephrase  in your own words so your MP knows you care personally about this issue enough to take the time to write.

4. (Added April 11) Take a picture of yourself with a message of solidarity for the NB Pro Choice Tumblr.

And keep checking back to our website for updates and more ways to help. Another good resource to stay up-to-date is the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada site.

Here is the press release from the clinic with more of the background:


From the moment Dr. Morgentaler announced his intention to open an abortion clinic in Fredericton, the provincial government planned to thwart his efforts.  The premier at the time, Frank McKenna, stated that: “if Mr. Morgentaler tries to open a clinic in the province of New Brunswick, he’s going to get the fight of his life.” Subsequent New Brunswick governments have continued to block access to abortion services in New Brunswick.

Dr. Morgentaler was immune to their threats.  He had already survived jail, threats against his life and the bombing of his Toronto clinic.  The actions of the N.B. government only served to strengthen his resolve to ensure that New Brunswick women would have access to safe abortion care in his clinic and that no woman would be turned away regardless of her ability to pay.  The Morgentaler Clinic opened in June, 1994 and since then has provided abortion services to more than 10,000 women in a non-judgmental, evidence based, and professional environment.

The main obstacle the New Brunswick government created for New Brunswick women who needed to access abortions was, and still is, Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2(a.1). It states that an abortion will only be covered by Medicare if:

  • It is performed in a hospital by a specialist in the field of obstetrics or gynaecology and that
  •  Two doctors have certified in writing that the procedure is ‘medically necessary’.


Note:  The federal government or the courts have never defined what ‘medically necessary’ means, other than the circular definition in the Canada Health Act – “medically necessary is that which is physician performed”.  The provinces decide what is medically necessary under the Act, by creating a list of insured services, which are then automatically deemed medically necessary.  With respect to abortion it does not mean ‘only if there is a threat to the mother or the foetus’.  New Brunswick acknowledges that abortion is a ‘medically necessary’ procedure by permitting abortions in some hospitals.  The same definition applies to clinics.

The practical consequence of this regulation is that, unlike in any other Canadian province with stand-alone clinics, abortions provided at the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton are not funded by Medicare. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 4 Comments

If Rape is Part of the Culture, Change the Culture

by Jody Dallaire. Originally posted at, re-posted with permission.

Can you name the 3 Canadian cities with the highest reported sexual assault rates?

Most of us would guess large cities or certain municipalities with reputations for toughness, a large transient population. Places in B.C. or out West maybe, or Ontario. Maybe Halifax is among them, we think.

Well, we come to find out, the 3 Canadian cities with highest sexual assault rates include two in New Brunswick.

Fredericton & Saint John ranked second and third among Canadian municipalities, for the highest number of sexual assault incidents reported to police in 2011.

Using Statistics Canada data about police reports of sexual assaults, Maclean’s magazine established rates per population among communities with a population of 10,000 or more in Canada. Maclean’s only published the “top” 15 cities, and no other New Brunswick municipality made it in the group.  The magazine called their list, “Where Canadian criminals go to play – A look at the cities with the most lawbreakers”. Ugh.

The highest rate of reported sexual assaults per capita was in Belleville, Ontario, with almost 137 sexual assaults per 100,000 population.

Fredericton and Saint John, respectively had rates of almost 130 and 115 incidents per 100,000. Halifax was 12th, with 87 reported sexual assaults per 100,000 population.

New Brunswick’s showing on that list is shocking, mostly because it seems that our province is not aware of the extent of the problem nor doing much to prevent the crime.

It is also shocking because we know that, here as elsewhere, most victims of reported sexual assaults are children.  In 2009, in 61 per cent of cases, the sexual assault victim was a child in New Brunswick – a child younger than 12 in 21 per cent of cases. That’s about 350 children in New Brunswick in 2009 who were victims of a sexual assault reported to police. Read more

Posted on by Jody Dallaire in Can-Con, Feminism Leave a comment

New Brunswick Florist Refuses Flowers, Missisauga Catholic Schools Refuse GSAs

Turns out Riverview, New Brunswick (population just over 17,000) is home to a homophobic wedding florist.

After having confirmed an order for wedding flowers, Kim Evans of Petals and Promises Wedding Flowers cancelled the agreement when she discovered it was a same-sex wedding.

Although Evans wasn’t interviewed in the articles I read, the couple’s wedding planner shared her email, which stated: “”I am choosing to decline your business. As a born-again Christian, I must respect my conscience before God and have no part in this matter.”

The thing is, while Canadians have a right to hold their own religious beliefs, the right doesn’t extend to allow people to use their religion to discriminate against others when operating a business or providing a public service. Saying your florist won’t provide flowers for gay weddings is the same as saying your coffee shop or restaurant or funeral home or bed and breakfast won’t serve members of a certain minority group.

Eldon Hay, a United Church minister and gay rights advocate interviewed by the CBC, put it well: “The shopkeeper has every right to her own convictions as long as she is a private citizen in her own house, but if she opens her doors to sell flowers, then she must be prepared to meet and deal with the public.

Missisauga Catholic high school students are trying to start a Gay-Straight Alliance

And more in the realm of Canadian homophobia this week, Missisauga Catholic students have started a Facebook group to rally support for their drive to start a Gay-Straight Alliance at St. Joseph’s Catholic Secondary.

One of the main students organizing the St. Joe’s GSA told that a teacher told her she and the other students were probably just confused. The teacher then offered them pamphlets for Courage International, which uses a 12-step program to try to “cure” gayness.

This ban on GSAs comes not long after another Ontario board, the Halton Catholic School Board, came under fire for comparing a ban on GSAs to banning “Nazi groups” in school. Outcry forced the board to lift the ban but they still don’t allow clubs with “gay” in their name.

At this point the Ontario NDP is the only party talking about this. They’re calling on the Liberals to address the issues with inequality in the Catholic school system, but they stop short of suggesting funding should be cut off.

If no politicians are going to even consider changing the funding subsidies to these schools, it’ll be interesting to see how the government intends to ensure public money isn’t enabling discrimination.



Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, LGBT 5 Comments