One hundred white crosses, erected along Highway 16 near Telkwa by a group opposed to abortion, were ordered taken down by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Mark Penninga, a contact person for the Association for Reformed Political Action, said they were told by ministry staff public complaints had been made and the ministry took action based on those complaints.
“We put up the exact display near Quick about two months ago and it was up for three or four weeks without any problems,” Penninga said.
A May 18 ARPA press release stated each cross represented 1,000 abortions that occur in Canada yearly.
The group had permission from the property owner to erect the crosses but were unaware the fence posts they were attached to are located on the highway right-of-way.
The release also stated the ministry considered the display “a safety hazard and a distraction.”
“There’s no doubt this display was more noticeable, but the way the law works is not if it’s too noticeable, it’s banned.” Penninga said.
“The way the law works in Canada, is if something is done of which there is no law against, then it’s permissible, that’s just the standard by which we run this country.”
MOTI regional manager Carl Lutz disagreed with the ARPA press release claim the crosses were removed because of the message they carried.
“Absolutely not”, said Lutz,
“We just had concerns regarding safety and driver distraction.
“The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure requested the signs be taken down because they were placed on ministry right-of-way without permission.”
Lutz said the measure was taken after a combination of complaints from the public and observations from ministry staff.
Penninga also voiced concerns over the short timeline given to take the display down.
“I looked at the laws by which they [MOTI] are governed,” Penninga said.
“If indeed there is a violation of sorts, the protocol is to let us know by registered letter and the assumption is this takes five days.
“Nowhere does it say we’re to be advised by email and then within 48 hours of that email being sent, the display has to come down.”
Lutz said the ministry always has challenges with illegal signs on the right-of-way and deals with them on a case by case basis.
“We tried to find a reasonable solution to this particular issue,” he said.
Penninga said he hopes others will take the display and set it up elsewhere in the province.
“We aren’t too enthusiastic about bringing it around Smithers again, just because apparently the ministry is pretty sensitive about it,” he said.
The group has advised the ministry of transportation that if they pass the display on to others, they will tell them to consult with the ministry so they don’t cross into the right-of-way again.