Pro-life group calls Saskatoon policy on proclamations 'discriminatory'
SASKATOON -- A pro-life organization in Saskatoon believes if City Hall chooses to deny one proclamation and accept others, it shouldn't be in the business of accepting any proclamations at all.
Carole Tokaruk is the president of the Saskatoon chapter of Alliance for Life, a pro-life, educational organization. She's appealing a decision by the city clerk's office after it denied its “Respect for Life Week” proposed for Jan. 21-28.
"If they don't want to give proclamations don't give anyone a proclamation, don’t give anyone a flag-raising, treat everyone the same, but they're not treating anyone the same and that's a problem," Tokaruk said.
This isn't the first time Tokaruk has attempted to secure this proclamation. In Dec. 2018, city council voted 8-3 to reject the proclamation. At the time Coun. Randy Donauer said it wasn't up to him to make that call.
"Residents of Saskatoon are entitled to this if they'd like to apply for it. It's not our job to pick winners and losers and get involved in these kinds of debates," he said at the time.
Last month, Tokaruk again requested the proclamation, a formal request initially to the city clerk's office, which was denied.
Recently City Council approved and endorsed new rules and guidelines around city proclamations and flag-raising procedures. The policy outlines that submissions from organizations will not be approved if its philosophy or the request is controversial, contentious or divisive within the community.
On Monday Jan. 20, Tokaruk will face city councillors and the mayor to appeal the city clerk's decision to deny the proclamation.
"Why are (they) denying our rights when everybody else, because we have checked back, and seen that everybody else from a big range of organizations have not been denied their proclamations or flag raisings, we're the only ones that have been denied and I think it's discrimination and I think we have rights like everyone else," Tokaruk said. "If it's divisive well I can think of a couple things they've approved that's divisive too in the community."
Tokaruk pointed to council's approval endorsing Pride Week as an example of something divisive council endorsed in the past.
"That's very divisive itself and I don't know a lot of others but that's a major one," she said.
Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Saskatchewan Ken Norman said the stance of discrimination the Alliance for Life is taking is not a strong one.
"The argument from the appeal Alliance for Life is that the city has endorsed Pride Week so this is discriminatory. The difference is that sexual minorities have been recognized by the law, protected by the Human Rights Code and the Charter, whereas the unborn, the law is silent on that question," Norman said. "There's a difference that does erode the claim that this is discriminatory."
The appeal will be heard at the Governance and Priorities meeting on Monday at 1 p.m.