Three Ontario pro-lifers were arrested and charged Sept. 9 for praying, picketing, and offering counselling outside Toronto’s Scott abortuary.
Rev. Ken Campbell of Milton, Linda Gibbons of Toronto, and Anneliese Steden of Cambridge were taken away by 51 Division police and charged with obstructing a peace officer after the sheriff read the terms of Justice George Adams’s 1994 injunction against pro-life witnessing outside Ontario abortion centres.
The injunction was initiated by Ontario’s former New Democratic government under the leadership of then-Attorney General Marion Boyd. Although technically a “temporary” measure, it doesn’t have a time limit, and the present “Conservative” government, contrary to its posturing prior to the 1995 election, has done nothing to stop it.
Approximately 30 pro-life protesters watched from outside the 60-foot “bubble zone” as Linda Gibbons pursued her pattern of passive resistance against the law. Having been read the injunction, she sat down on the sidewalk with her sign, and went limp as officers hauled her into a paddy wagon. She stayed silent throughout in solidarity with preborn children.
While watching Linda Gibbons being taken away, CFRB radio broadcaster Michael Coren said wryly, “The city is a lot safer now.”
Rev. Campbell and Mrs. Steden left the bubble zone after being warned by police that they were in violation of the injunction. The two were quite willing to suffer the consequences of disobeying a court order (breaking the injunction) since that charge would give them an opportunity to make their case against the injunction on constitutional grounds before a jury.
Pro-lifers have long held that the police are charging protesters with obstruction, even though they’re being arrested for disobeying a court order, because officials believe the injunction couldn’t withstand a head-on challenge in court.
Rev. Campbell and Mrs. Steden resumed their witness within the “bubble zone” about a half-hour later. The police returned quickly, and, according to several witnesses, angrily manhandled Rev. Campbell, breaking his watch strap and leaving marks on his arms. Mrs. Steden said later at Metro West Detention Centre that she was not handled roughly, but that the officers did treat her angrily.
In an interview with The Interim from his home, Rev. Campbell said he suspects the officers’ demeanour was a show for abortuary manager Maria Corsillo, who seemed to be giving the police their marching orders.
Prior to Linda Gibbons’s arrest, police spent about a half an hour commiserating with Ms Corsillo inside the abortuary. Protesters gathered across the street said they could see into the abortuary’s front window, and Ms Corsillo seemed to be haranguing the officers.
At times, police escorted clients out of the abortuary, preventing pro-lifers from offering help to the aborted women. Interviewed by The Interim at Metro West, Linda Gibbons remarked, “The police protecting the abortuary should also be charged with (obstruction)—they were blocking the sidewalk and obstructing mothers with strollers, who wanted to walk past the killing centre.”
Inside the police station, the politics of abortion in the justice system became clear to Rev. Campbell and Mrs. Steden. Rev. Campbell, a long-time activist known for his peacefulness, was chained to a bench with handcuffs, while on the other side of the bench, a man facing a charge of wife battery was allowed to sit without handcuffs.
Also, the two found police were charging them with obstruction, effectively denying them a jury trial. This in spite of the fact that Judge Milton Cadsby threw out earlier obstruction charges against Rev. Campbell in July, saying he thought it was about time the “temporary” injunction was settled. In 1997, Judge Charles Scullion scolded the Crown for bringing Rev. Campbell before his court for obstruction.
Rev. Campbell and Mrs. Steden say they heard a justice official explain in the police station that he ordered the obstruction charge “so that Rev. Campbell will not have a platform to express his views.”
Rev. Campbell says that officials are “imposing a politically correct, secular death culture on the justice system.” Mrs. Steden said simply, “If doctors are allowed to kill babies, then we must be allowed to save those that can be saved.”
Rev. Campbell was released to await trial on the condition he agree to stay away from the abortuary. Mrs. Steden and Linda Gibbons refused, and remain in custody.