For years, radical groups have succeeded where it counts the most—in the courts. Now, a Canadian lawyers’ group is providing pro-family Canadians with a voice in the legal system
Canadian pro-life activists have an ally they can count on when legal problems arise.
For the last three years, the Ottawa based Canadian Centre for Law and Justice has been providing legal representation and council without charge to pro-life groups and individuals. It’s part of what the Centre describes as its overall mission to defend freedom, human life and the family in the legal arena.
The non-profit CCLJ was formed in 1993 as an offshoot of Pat Robertson’s American Centre for Law and Justice in the U.S. It received help and startup capital from the American parent—including advice from ace ACLJ lawyer Jay Sekulow—but it is now aiming to be self-sufficient.
“The CCLJ used Canadian law as a tool for building a better Canada—a nation where the family, religion and respect for the sanctity of life are upheld,” says Gerard Guay, the CCLJ’s senior counsel. “We believe that Canadians are a tolerant and spiritual people who willingly accept that religion has a vital role to play in their lives and in the lives of others.
Guay says there is a need for the CCLJ because freedom, faith, family and human life are under greater siege than ever.
“Especially over the last 12 years, through a careful strategy of verbal, social and legal engineering, our freedoms of speech, association and religious expression have been curtailed. Yet the Fathers of Confederation did not separate God from law or daily life. Nor was it their intention to create country where secularism would prevail.”
Guay points to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, enacted in 1982, as the chief vehicle special interest groups have used to mould Canadian society in ways objectionable to most Canadians. “We believe that the majority of Canadians neither expect nor want Canadian society to be reshaped in this manner.”
He says some of the Centre’s most important pro-life work has included assistance to Human Life International during its recent conferences in Montreal and Calgary.
In Montreal the Centre arranged for a bailiff to serve letters to leaders of the “Coalition Against HLI” which was put together for the event, advising them that HLI had a constitutional right to hold a meeting without disruption. The CCLJ also sent letters to other interested partied advising them that HLI was not planning demonstrations during the conference.
The CCLJ played a key role in obtaining entry visas for Joe Scheidler and Randall Terry (who was initially banned from Canada because of a U>S.. conviction for conspiring to show a dead fetus to President Bill Clinton).
The CCLJ played a key role in obtaining entry visas for Joe Scheidler and Randall Terry (who was initially banned from Canada because of a U.S. conviction for conspiring to show a dead fetus to President Bill Clinton).
“When Theresa Bell, the Canadian president of HLI called me requesting the assistance of the CCLJ, I was both pleased and honoured to respond,” says Guay. “It was imperative that the CCLJ help reestablish some balance to this public (abortion) debate and remind individuals supporting the (anti-HLI) coalition of their responsibilities as citizens.”
The Centre has also been involved in other recent legal wrangles, including the former Ontario NDP government’s injunction application against pro-life protesters, and the convictions of pro-life picketers for mischief in Halifax.
“The sanctity of life from conception to natural death must be restored to the laws and in judicial decisions of Canada,” says Guay. “The CCLJ will be (a) voice in the courtrooms from coast to coast promoting and defending the sanctity of life.”
Guay says outside the pro-life sphere, the Centre has been active in trying to secure broadcast licences for Christian radio and television stations across Canada. These efforts received a blow, however, when the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission recently turned down all seven applications for Christian TVB stations. The CCLJ is appealing the decisions to the Federal Court of Appeal.
Securing the right of public school students to pray in school has been another important component of the CCLJ’s work. Guay says this effort is most prominently manifested in the annual “See You at eh Pole” event, in which public school students gather for prayer at their school’s flagpole during non instructional time. About 50,000 Canadian students took part in the most recent event last September.
Also in September, Guay attended the Christian Coalition’s Road to Victory ’95 conference in Washington, D.C. to study how lessons from the American Experience can be applied here. “We Canadians can learn much from our American friends and neighbours, and Road to Victory ’95 was yet another opportunity to do so, another step by the ever growing number of Christians dedicated to changing Western culture he says.
Guay observes the Centre has had to cut back on staff lawyers because the American Centre for Law and Justice has ceased its funding of the Canadian offshoot. But he hopes that the Canadian Centre will soon become self-sufficient and strengthened as Canadians rally behind it.
“We’re hoping the Centre can be a permanent presence… I believe we’ve gained a lot of credibility in Canada.”
For the future, Guay says the CCLJ hopes to extend its influence down to the local level nationwide. “We are setting up a network of lawyers and associates across Canada with whom we can regularly exchange ideas or information and to whom the CCLJ can refer cases in their respective local areas.”
The Centre will also concentrate on renewing the effort to get fulltime Christian television stations on the air across Canada. Guay says he is working on setting up a coalition for Christian broadcasting, and he is hopeful that pro-life groups will be among the first to join.
He believes a television presence would give pro-life groups an exciting, new platform to get their message out. “Once we’ve got this (broadcasting) battle won, we can concentrate on the others…with the benefit of Christian television in Canada, we will be much more effective for the fight for pro-life.”
Guay says pro-life activists who require legal advice from the Centre should write or fax their requests with a description of the problem to: The Canadian Centre for Law and Justice, P.O. Box 36038, 1318 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1Y 3A0 fax (613) 778-3443.
He adds that the Centre is always pleased to receive donations towards its work at the same mailing address.