Constitutional arguments and an application for a change in bail conditions consumed an entire day of Provincial Court time on June 2, when Linda Gibbons appeared for her latest hearings as part of an increasingly complex web of legal issues surrounding her more recent pro-life demonstrations outside a Toronto abortion site.
Gibbons has been imprisoned continuously since Jan. 20, 2009, when she was arrested outside the downtown “Scott Clinic,” which is protected by a “temporary” court injunction banning pro-life activity within a specified zone, and eventually charged with disobeying a court order, after initially being charged with obstructing a peace officer and mischief to property. She also faces a retrial on a charge of disobeying a court order in connection with a previous arrest at the site in October 2008. The latter charge had been quashed, but was later reinstated after making its way to the Ontario Court of Appeal. No date has yet been set for that trial, as the Crown has for over a year been stonewalling defense requests for key documents related to the case.
On June 2, constitutional lawyer Nicolas Rouleau, speaking on behalf of Gibbons regarding the January 2009 charge, put forth the argument that Section 127 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which contains the charge of disobeying a court order, is an illegitimate use of the federal government’s power, as it inappropriately infringes on the provinces’ rights to administer their own statutes, and should be struck down. The federal government cannot criminalize something that is within provincial jurisdiction, he suggested. Crown Attorney Matthew Asma argued the opposite, saying criminal charges are needed to preserve the integrity of, and respect for, the law.
The case was adjourned to August 10, 10 a.m., at the College Park provincial court, Yonge and College Streets in downtown Toronto, for a ruling by Madam Justice Mara Beth Greene.
Defence lawyer Daniel Santoro then launched an unsuccessful bid to vary Gibbons’s bail conditions by removing the requirement that she stay away from the Scott abortion site. Gibbons refuses to agree to such conditions, thus mandating her remaining imprisoned pending trial. Madam Justice Mara Beth Greene, in rejecting the application, said the requirement is reasonable, given Gibbons’s criminal record.
In perhaps the most significant aspect of Gibbons’s legal matters, Santoro says he will seek leave to appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision regarding the October 2008 charge to the Supreme Court of Canada. The issue in contention is whether a criminal charge can be laid in connection with an order that was pronounced in a civil court. The three-person appeal court, by a 3-0 ruling, said yes, but Santoro believes not. Regardless, it is a major legal question, as the appeal court took some 20 pages to arrive at its decision.
A group of protesters organized by Gordon Truscott, who authored a book on Gibbons, kept vigil outside the courthouse before and during the hearings on June 2. They drew attention to the injustice of a peaceful grandmother being held in jail for extended periods of time.
“I visited (Linda) on Tuesday, May 25th and Linda has aged,” said Truscott. “Prison life is hard … Linda has suffered more than seven years in prisons for her peaceful pro-life witness. Although Linda is non-violent and harmless, she has served more time in jail than men who have used a gun to hold up a variety store.”
A version of this article originally appeared June 4 at LifeSiteNews.com and is reprinted with permission.