Pro-life warrior Cyril Winter passed away Friday, March 9, 2018. A daily presence for seven years outside the Morgentaler abortion clinic in downtown Ottawa, Cy did not survive surgery to place stents in his coronary arteries. His legacy, however, lives on.
Cy Winter’s pro-life activism started when he retired. He stood on the sidewalk in front of the Morgentaler clinic every day, rain or shine, from early 2011 until early March 2018. The last four years were spent only 12 feet away from the entrance to the abortion clinic. The slender elderly man with a shock of white long hair and earnest eyes became a permanent fixture at 65 Bank Street.
Cy wore a sandwich board featuring graphic abortion imagery. He would change the sign periodically as he felt led through prayer. A long eight-inch crucifix hung around his neck and dangled in front of the board. Sometimes Cy wore a life-size plastic baby doll so that the little head peeked out from behind the sandwich board, a reminder of why he was there. He gave out Jesus tracts and only spoke when spoken to first. “Love the babies in Jesus’ name.” Winter would respond, “God bless you with a conversion.” Still, Cy was spat upon, punched, splashed by buses, cursed and had his life threatened. But he remained steadfast.
The man who would not return an insult had a hit piece written about him in the Toronto Star by a journalist named Heather Mallick, who Cy said never even bothered to interview him. In it, Mallick alleged that it was Cy Winter who spat upon and harassed others — a lie that was quickly squashed by those who knew him and by witnesses. Cy challenged the journalist and clinic to use their own daily video footage outside the clinic as proof of his innocence. Mallick never took him up on his offer.
After that hit piece, persecution against Winter escalated. He was pushed twice into moving traffic on the busy highway in two attempts for his life as witnessed by Donald Andre Bruneau, a close friend of Cy Winter. Bruneau often served as witness and cameraman for Cy. It was Bruneau who coined the term “aborterrorism” which he credits Cy with using publically and boldly.
What motivated Cy was the deep injustice of abortion. Simply for making their homes in their mothers’ wombs, he would say, unborn children were treated so unjustly. He hated “murder in the womb,” lamenting that the safest place in the world had become the most dangerous.
There were moments that his presence created meaningful encounters. In one of Bruneau’s videos, he described a conversation with a young abortion doctor who approached Cy in front of the clinic and talked to him for an hour. Soon after, another woman came and sat on a bench nearby and asked Cy about his purpose there. He believed the woman left the conversation thoughtfully.
Cy personally witnessed seven women changing their minds after seeing him in front of the abortion mill. They went in and walked back out, thanking him. This fact annoyed the clinic’s staff.
When Ontario made a law banning sidewalk counseling and protesting within 50 meters of abortion clinics, a law many believe was inspired by his gadfly presence, Winter was not deterred. The protest-free bubble zones around abortion clinics officially came into effect Feb. 1, 2018. But Cy did not want to leave the spot in front of the clinic on Bank St. He was arrested there twice by Ottawa police in early February, not for holding abortion signs, but signs about the infringement of free speech. His sign read, ‘I love Jesus loves you!”
Still, Winter was charged with eight separate counts for violating the new bubble law. His case was schedule for late March. He was looking forward to challenging the law since he believed it was unconstitutional. Unfortunately, Cy Winter died of complications during heart surgery before his March 23 court date.
Winter was remembered by his close friend Donald Bruneau in the eulogy of his funeral. He remembered his close friend as somebody who had a deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Holy Face of Jesus. Winter had those images hanging above his bed and would meditate on them daily. Toward the end of Cy’s life, Bruneau recounted, Cy’s face shared much of the wear and suffering on his own face that Jesus’ holy face did with the exception of the crown of thorns.
“His love for Jesus was second to none,” Bruneau said. “Cy had a deep, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and walked in the joy of the Lord, because he knew that he knew that Jesus was the way, the truth and the life.”
Cyril Winter’s last words on Facebook the day of the surgery were, “Stent day but no guarantee because I could get bumped by emergencies. Reassuring to know that I am not an emergency — read: ‘not critical.’ ‘Love is patient....’ Come Lord Jesus. Cy”
Rest in Peace Good and Faithful Servant.
Victoria Gisondi is the Public Outreach Associate for Priests for Life.