On page 20, we highlight a nine-year-old story; namely The Interim’s coverage of then attorney-general Marion Boyd’s announcement that Ontario’s NDP government would seek a court order restricting pro-life activity (such as the counselling of women or peacefully protesting against abortion) at certain locations in the province. The Ontario Court (General Division) issued a “temporary” injunction – and nine years later, it is still in force.
The abortuaries and the NDP government claimed that “bubble zones” prohibiting demonstrations around abortuaries, hospitals that committed abortions and the homes of abortionists, were necessary to protect abortion staff and women seeking abortions, although they lacked evidence of any ways in which staff or women were in danger of violence.
That is more than can be said for the babies killed within the walls of the same abortuaries. Governments have done nothing to protect them; in fact, governments have claimed it is wrong to stand silently outside an abortuary with a sign saying as much.
These heavy-handed restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of expression are an abomination and possibly unconstitutional.
However, the constitutionality of the injunction has never been tested, as the police and Crown attorneys refuse to charge pro-life activists with breaking the injunction, and choose instead to proceed with the lesser charge of obstructing a police officer. Pro-life legal opinion says this is done deliberately to thwart any direct constitutional challenge against this gross violation of the civil liberties of pro-life advocates.
It is high time for the “temporary” injunction to be scrapped. Since it was granted, several court cases have demonstrated that judges, too, are tired of the gross misuse of a so-called temporary measure to silence free-speech rights. In July 1998, Judge Milton Cadsby acquitted evangelical pastor Ken Campbell of obstructing a police officer because it was not the correct charge. He asked the Crown, “Don’t you think its time that it be settled?” – meaning the government should decide to legislate a bubble zone or drop the matter altogether.
Tory MPPs, including would-be premier Mike Harris, originally chastised the NDP government for its violation of the civil rights of pro-life advocates, but Harris’s Progressive Conservative government followed up by doing nothing for six years.
Ernie Eves, who supports abortion but considers it a matter of conscience, is now premier. He should demonstrate his support for the idea that abortion is a matter of conscience by allowing pro-lifers to act on their consciences and let them counsel women and witness against abortion.