Official says permanent measure being planned

The hope that Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government will throw out the “temporary” injunction against pro-life witnessing was all but quashed last month. An inquiry with the Ministry of the Attorney-General revealed that the government is now committed to seeing the injunction made permanent.

Ministry spokesman Brendan Crawley told The Interim he doesn’t know when the decision was made, and refused to elaborate. “We never comment on the position we are going to take in a case before we speak to it … in court.”

When the New Democratic government introduced the injunction to restrict constitutionally protected peaceful protests outside Ontario’s abortion mills, it insisted that its long-term intention was to make the court order permanent. Even so, as time went on, and the NDP government was replaced by the Tories, pro-life forces held on to the hope that the injunction would eventually be dropped.

Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes said that wouldn’t be controversial. “They can quite easily wash their hands of this, saying, ‘It was an ill-conceived use of taxpayers’ money in a civil case against private individuals, and we’re not going to be a party to it.’ Nobody out there can disagree with that,” Mr. Hughes told The Interim.

This latest development is particularly surprising, said Mr. Hughes, in light of the outrage Attorney-General Charles Harnick expressed at the injunction when he was in opposition. Prior to the 1995 election, Mr. Harnick said the measure was an unwarranted suppression of free speech, and indicated a Tory government would review the matter. Soon after the election, however, Mr. Harnick changed his tune, defending the injunction on “public safety” grounds.

Mr. Hughes blames the entrenched socialist bureaucracy at Queen’s Park, left over from the days of the NDP government. “The social leftists in the attorney-general’s office continue to be a real bugbear,” he said. “(CLC) said right off the bat that they had to get rid of all those people or there would be no changes whatsoever.”

Mr. Crawley seemed to confirm this problem, indicating that nothing significant has changed in the ministry’s view of the injunction since it was instituted under the NDP. He said anyone wanting to know the ministry’s view today should read the arguments in the original case.

Asked whether the AG’s handling of the issue is bureaucratically driven or directed by the democratically elected minister, Mr. Crawley seemed to indicate he sees the government playing a passive role. “The government is obviously aware, and approves of the move to seek the permanent injunction,” he said.

Despite radical policy shifts since the Tories replaced the New Democrats, pro-lifers have seen no tangible change in the area of abortion policy. Family Coalition Party leader Giuseppe Gori says he is not surprised. He expects to gain from the PC’s inaction, and the resulting disappointment among social conservatives.

Mr. Hughes argues that the reaction of Tory backbenchers, particularly the so-called Family Values Caucus, will affect how social conservatives vote in the upcoming election. “If there’s no hue and cry in the Tory caucus over this, then I can see pro-life, pro-family people (who supported) the Tory party (moving to) the Family Coalition Party, or not voting at all,” he says.