Cyril Winter, 70, was admitted March 5 to the Heart Institute for a stent operation to clear his coronary arteries. He posted on Facebook he expected to be “back on the job” the following Monday. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Controversial bubble zone protester dies after heart surgery

  • March 19, 2018

Ottawa – The man whose street protests prompted Ontario’s abortion bubble zone legislation has died while awaiting trial after becoming the first person charged for violating the new law.

Cyril Winter, 70, died in hospital March 9 following heart surgery at the Ottawa Heart Institute.

Mr. Winter was a regular protester for several years outside the Morgentaler abortion facility in downtown Ottawa. The controversial figure usually wore a sandwich board featuring graphic photos of aborted unborn babies.

Police arrested Mr. Winter twice in February for violating the exclusion zone around the abortion facility. He was due to appear in an Ottawa courtroom March 23 on five charges.

He was admitted March 5 to the Heart Institute for a stent operation to clear his coronary arteries. He posted on Facebook he expected to be “back on the job” the following Monday.

“Stent day but no guarantee because I could get bumped by emergencies,” he posted on Facebook March 9. “Reassuring to know that I am not an emergency — read: ‘not critical.’ ‘Love is patient....’Come Lord Jesus. Cy.’ ”

His brother Chris Winter posted on Facebook that Mr. Winter passed away at 11:07 p.m. that night.

His death saddened Ottawa’s pro-life community.

“A hero has died,” Ruth Shaw of the National Campus Life Network posted on Facebook. “Cyril Winter, (a well-known) Ottawa pro-life activist, has passed away. Cyril gave his life to shining a spotlight on the reality of abortion. . .  May we all take example from his courage.”

Ottawa’s 40 Days for Life coordinator Wanda Hartlin had noticed Mr. Winter was reducing his hours in front of the clinic.

“It’s a shock, but his health wasn’t that great,” she said. “It was hard on him. Having had a heart attack myself, I know when it gets really cold it does affect you.”

Mr. Winter had his friends and his detractors, and some who differed with him on strategy because of his use of graphic images, said Debbie Duval, National Capital organizer for Campaign Life Coalition (CLC). 

“I know nothing about him personally, other than he was as determined as a bull to keep his freedom of expression,” said Paul Lauzon, a researcher with Ottawa’s CLC office.

Police arrested Mr. Winter Feb. 7 in front of the abortion facility. He was wearing a sandwich board that featured a picture of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Under the picture were the words: “Freedom of Expression and Religion. No censorship.” A crucifix dangled from the sign.

Two days later, he returned wearing a sign saying “God save Canada’s Charter Rights.”

The bubble zone law, which came into effect on Feb. 1, makes it an offence to protest within 50 metres of an abortion clinic.

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