Police in the central Ontario community of Lindsay won’t be laying criminal charges against members of Campaign Life Coalition’s Show the Truth tour.

As well, authorities in the town northeast of Toronto, have returned four signs seized last October, after receiving direction from the provincial Attorney-General’s office.

The signs in question show aborted babies. They were used last year in a sweep through several southwestern Ontario communities to educate the public about abortion issues.

Show the Truth’s chief organizer, Rosemary Connell says what happened in the Lindsay case could have a significant bearing on the outcome of an upcoming court case in St. Thomas, Ontario. Connell and three other pro-lifers are facing charges after tour participants displayed images of full-term and aborted babies last summer. Three days have been set aside in this hearing, which begins April 1.

Members of Campaign Life Coalition began using these same signs outside Lindsay’s Ross memorial Hospital last May, but things turned ugly in October when a member of the town’s police forced vowed to get the signs off the street. Armed with a search warrant, police seized four signs from the Connells, claiming they were acting on public complaints.

Under the law, authorities could keep the signs for 90 days before deciding on charges.

The case has had more twists than an Olympic bobsled run. While the issue went from the local Crown attorney to the Regional, then to the provincial Crown, the Lindsay hospital was the site of two major pickets featuring the same signs. A judge’s decision in an earlier case allowed one of the signs to be used and all police could do was videotape a silent vigil.

On Jan. 20, Connell was surprised to hear on a morning news broadcast that police would not be laying charges. She was surprised because while she had a call from her lawyer, there was no formal communication from the police. In fact, a copy of the press release from the Lindsay police services shows they received word the previous day and were advised, “there was not a reasonable prospect of convicting individuals of a criminal offence.”

Mrs. Connell requested “something formal in writing” from police after receiving a call from a civilian employee instructing her to “come and get your signs.”

In a Jan. 27 letter to the Connells, Police Chief Randy Martin says his department was contacted by Regional Crown Attorney Davis Thompson. The letter states no charges were laid “as the Lindsay police services desired further consultation with the Crown Attorney’s office and ultimately, Crown Attorneys wanted to consult with the Criminal Law Division of the Ministry of the Attorney General in Toronto for a final legal interpretation.”

The Connell’s question of who made the final decision and what it was based on were deflected to the Regional Crown who suggested they get answers under Freedom of Information procedures.

As organizers with Show the Truth prepare for a 16-day city tour in July, Connell is encouraged by the news. She heard from the wife of a police officer that authorities in the Durham region, near Toronto, were watching the Lindsay case carefully.

Meantime, a challenge under the Freedom of Information law hasn’t been ruled out. Connell wants to know who made the decision, saying, “I’ve been told it was made at the provincial level.”

While the 10th anniversary of the Morgentaler Supreme Court decision was hailed with much media hoopla, Campaign Life’s Show the Truth tour continues outside the Lindsay hospital … unobstructed.
Says Connell, “I think it escalated well beyond what they ever thought it would.”

(Gerry Brosso contributes to The Interim from Gananoque, Ont.)