Anti-abortion activists planted 10,000 little flags in Memorial Peace Park on Saturday.
They said each flag represents 10 abortions in Canada each year.
The group We Need A Law was handing out literature and speaking to the public, the main message being Canada is the only democratic country without laws restricting abortions.
City hall said it allowed the park display to respect the applicant’s right to freedom of expression, while not taking a position on the issue.
“We’re raising awareness to let people know that there are no laws or restrictions against abortions in Canada,” said Emma Dougan, a Maple Ridge Grade 12 student who helped organize the public demonstration.
She and other members of the group were handing out literature with messages including: “Abortion is not a charter right.
The Supreme Court of Canada did not rule in favour of unrestricted abortion; it looked to Parliament to enact a new law.
She explained the group wants restrictions on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
They also want to restrict sex-selective abortions, she said, “to protect girls, specifically, who are being aborted just because they are girls.”
Most of the people Dougan she spoke with on Saturday believe there is a law against third-trimester abortions in Canada, and the people on 224th Street were not alone – statistically, 77 per cent of Canadians believe there is such a law, according to the group’s stats.
Dougan said a majority of Canadians want a law.
Abortion being a sensitive topic, she heard opinions on both sides of the issue from passersby.
“Mixed reactions – some people are in full support, and they kinda say, ‘Great job.’ Other people are quite offended,” she said, and some people shouted at the young women from passing cars.
However, she said many people on the pro-choice side of the divisive debate still said they would support having a law. They had booked the park until 6 p.m. on Saturday.
There were numerous complaints about the flag display online, some asking why the city would allow it in a public park.
Fred Armstrong, city manager of community engagement and relations, said the request for the display was a first, so city hall contacted neighbouring municipalities and determined that similar booking requests have been approved in other jurisdictions.
“City staff determined that entering into a formal park rental contract was the appropriate approach and that denying such a booking request could be viewed as a violation of the organizer’s right to free expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Armstrong said.
“Memorial Peace Park, by its nature, is the iconic heart of the community and has frequently been the site of informal protests and gatherings,” he added. “The city recognizes that the use this past weekend relates to a matter that invokes strong views from citizens. The city’s role is not to have a position on this matter, however it does respect the organizer’s right to freedom of expression.”