Linda Gibbons

The Supreme Court of Canada heard submissions Dec. 14 from the lawyer of Linda Gibbons, defending not the pro-life activist’s free speech rights, but rather how civil authorities deal with her for allegedly violating the “temporary” bubble zone injunction issued in 1994.

Gibbons, 63, is a pro-life activist who has spent years in jail for peacefully protesting outside abortion facilities that are protected by the injunction that prohibits pro-life activity within 150 meters of abortion facilities.

Lawyer Daniel Santoro presented arguments that Gibbon’s odyssey through the criminal courts for violations of injunctions laid down in civil courts was an improper use of the criminal justice system. According to the National Post’s Charles Lewis, who has been closely following the Gibbons case, Santoro argued that the criminal court should never have been involved in something that began as a civil matter.

“A civil court could have used a scalpel instead of a butcher’s knife to come out with a better solution,” Santoro told the Post. “A civil court would have had many more solutions,” Santoro explained. “They could have ended the injunction, saying it was no longer necessary, they could have also even made an exception for her to protest peacefully in the bubble. They have a lot more latitude in dealing with this kind of case. All the criminal court can do is convict or not, they can’t make a decision about the viability of a 17-year-old injunction.’’

Santoro told the Supreme Court of Canada that enforcement of the injunction should be done before the civil courts and that her peaceful protest is not worthy of criminal consideration or being punished with jail time. Penalties in civil court include fines and community services.

While her lawyers argued technical aspects of the law, Gibbons told reporters and supporters at the proceedings that she is speaking for the unborn and that the injunction is aimed at pro-life speech. Gibbons told the National Post that she wants the injunction “brought down” because “The Crown is using these injunctions to stifle pro-life activism.”

The Post also editorialized against the injunction, supporting Gibbons’ fight in an editorial entitled, “The imprisonment of Linda Gibbons.”

“It’s true that her behavior has technically put her afoul of Toronto’s 17-year temporary injunction,” the paper said, “but perhaps it is that ‘temporary’ injunction that should be under scrutiny, not Ms. Gibbons’ own peaceful behavior.” The paper compared the treatment of the pro-life activist who is automatically charged and imprisoned to how authorities patiently and peacefully dealt with Occupy Toronto, allowing the protest to continue despite obvious violations of municipal bylaws.

Granting that the injunction might have a compelling rationale in 1994 in the wake of violence and conflict in the abortion wars, the paper said that in the intervening peaceful years, “there is no justification for the temporary injunction to be ever again used against Ms. Gibbons or a similarly peaceful protestor.”

Indeed, said the Post, the “only real injustice” is the “completely disproportionate response of the state” to Gibbons’ peaceful witness.

The Supreme Court decided last February that it would hear the appeal filed by Santoro seeking to overturn an Ontario Court of Appeal decision reinstating Gibbons’ criminal conviction on a charge of disobeying a court order.

The charge had originally been quashed by a lower court judge on the grounds that the matter was improperly heard in a criminal, rather than civil, court. The 1994 injunction relating to the charge had been decreed in a civil court, yet the Ontario Attorney-General’s office had, from the beginning, consistently charged Gibbons criminally.

In November, Gibbons was released from custody stemming from an August arrest, when Justice Alphonse T. Lacavera found her not guilty on a charge of disobeying a court order. The judge determined that Sheriff Peter Krause improperly read the text of an outdated injunction when he directed that Gibbons be arrested outside the Morgentaler Clinic abortion site August 4.

Krause, Lacavera said, read the words of an interlocutory (temporary) injunction issued in 1992 that prohibited pro-life demonstration within 500 feet of Morgentaler’s site. However, that document had been superseded by a permanent injunction issued in April 1999, the terms of which were not read to Gibbons.

Lacavera noted she consequently could not have had the necessary mens rea (“guilty mind”) when she appeared at the Hillsdale Avenue site in a peaceful, silent protest, and directed that a verdict of not guilty be entered.

Upon her release, Gibbons remarked to supporters gathered to welcome her, “for 20 years, we’ve been shoved into criminal courts when it belongs in the civil courts. Now that the Supreme Court is going to examine that, I’m really hoping that at the end of the day, the injunctions will be struck down and recognized for what they were – political devices to stifle pro-life witness.”

On Dec. 16, Gibbons was once again arrested when she provided a pro-life witness in front of Henry Morgentaler’s Toronto abortion mill.

Parts of this article originally appeared Dec. 14 at and are reprinted with permission.