NDP tables Viewer Discretion Act to protect Ontarians from graphic images
QUEEN’S PARK – NDP MPPs Terence Kernaghan (London North Centre) and Jennie Stevens (St. Catharines) have reintroduced the Viewer Discretion Act, a private member’s bill to protect Ontarians from the unsolicited distribution of graphic materials to residences.
If passed, this legislation would require graphic images to be delivered in an opaque envelope with a warning label indicating the content and sender.
London has been leading the charge for solutions to the growing problem of graphic images delivered to doorsteps by anti-abortion groups. In 2022, the City of London introduced the Graphic Image Delivery By-law, which made it illegal to send graphic images that are not fully concealed by a warning label. Woodstock county is developing a similar by-law, and Toronto and St. Catharines are considering similar measures. The Viewer Discretion Act would amplify this local solution to the provincial level.
“This bill offers people a choice about whether or not they want to engage with graphic material,”said Kernaghan. “The London community has been clear – they would like to have a say in whether they are subjected to disturbing images, especially for children.”
Stevens says these images are particularly difficult for those who are living with post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have experienced pregnancy loss, and for children exposed to these images without consent.
“I think we can all agree that it’s a big problem when a first responder or veteran’s mental health is destabilized because they had to view violent and disturbing imagery without their consent,” said Stevens. “This is a simple solution to a growing problem. I am calling on the Ford government to do the right things and support this important legislation to protect families and those experiencing trauma.”
The bill is co-sponsored by Kernaghan, Stevens, Peggy Sattler (London West) and Teresa Armstrong (London-Fanshawe). The bill was initially tabled in 2021.
The MPPs were joined by Katie Dean, founder of the Viewer Discretion Legislation Coalition, and Shawn Bennett, Director for The Valhalla Project. The Viewer Discretion Legislation Coalition was established in 2020 to protect unsuspecting residents from finding disturbing images at their doorstep. The Valhalla Project is a Niagara-based PTSD support organization for veterans and first responders.
Katie Dean, founder of the Viewer Discretion Legislation Coalition
“The first time I received one of these graphic flyers in the mail, I thought I was being targeted. I was in shock and it triggered a trauma response in me. This is not about abortion. This is about human decency. It is a non-partisan issue that I hope the Ford government will take to heart and help protect all Ontarians”.
Shawn Bennett, director of The Valhalla Project
“Being a veteran with a 31-year firefighting career I can tell you that the stress from the job can lead to a long road for recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder. My home was a vital safe place, and now after seeing those graphic images I don’t even have that – action is required for veterans and frontline responders with PTSD, because this crosses a line”.
Benn Bissland, Scarborough parent
“I believe that everyone is entitled to their beliefs about abortion. What I do not believe is that anyone has the right to try and force their pro-life beliefs upon unsuspecting viewers through the use of graphic imagery such as the pamphlets that we have received in the mail. I don’t get affected by graphic images normally, but this shook me to my core. I am so thankful that my 4 year-old daughter wasn’t the one collecting the mail that day – those images would have destroyed her. This kind of graphic assault must be curbed”.