Helen Burnie, a retired nurse, was at daily Mass on the morning of Friday, March 6, when three Toronto police officers arrived at her home to place her under arrest. A 14-year-old student at a Christian high school was in one of his grade nine classes when members of the same police force arrived to remove him to 14 Division police station. On the same morning, Daniel McCash and David McDonald were taken from their homes in suburban Toronto in handcuffs and taken into custody as part of the same police operation.
Was this a major drug ring being busted? An organized crime ring broken? It was neither. It was the response of the Toronto police to complaints made by operators of one of Toronto’s illegal abortuaries.
The arrests came after an incident which took place behind the Morgentaler abortuary on Harbord Street the previous week. A verbal exchange between picketers and abortuary workers began as the workers were leaving for the day. When some shoving occurred, one of the pro-lifers placed a call to police, asking for help. Surprisingly, the police were not at their usual posts outside the abortuary on this occasion. The caller was upset by the thirty minutes that elapsed before the police arrived on the scene. When they did arrive, the police informed the caller that they were there in response to a call placed by the abortionists – and not to answer the pro-lifer’s call for assistance.
In the week following the incident, and prior to the arrests, the police interviewed abortuary staff members but failed to ask some of the picketers directly involved for their side of the story. The police refused to lay charges against the abortuary staff. The police, however, did lay charges against the picketers. The charges ranged from mischief to assault with a weapon. It is Miss Burnie, the retired nurse, who faces the latter charge – and the weapon allegedly involved is her picket sign!
Following the early-morning arrests, the police had the four accused taken before bail court judges to have conditions placed on their release. The police were asking that the four be ordered to keep away from both of Toronto’s two illegal abortuaries. The court refused to order any of the four away from the Scott abortuary, but did order the two men and the youth to stay away from the Morgentaler location until their trials are held. In the case of Helen Burnie, the crown attorney intervened and refused to even ask for any restrictions being placed on her. Thus Miss Burnie has been able to continue her daily picketing outside the Morgentaler abortuary.
The placing of a bail condition on the picketers, keeping them away from the abortuary, struck Toronto pro-lifers as rather ironic. It is the very restriction which could be placed on the abortionists to close the abortuary – but one that Attorney General Ian Scott steadfastly refuses to use.
“Sad and Shocking”
“The actions of the police are both sad and shocking,” said Campaign Life legal counsel Paul Dodds, who has represented numerous picketers in court. “Over the past two years the Toronto police have allowed themselves to be used by the illegal abortionists. Some officers are virtually at the beck and call of the abortionists, harassing picketers, calling them obscene names and fraternizing with the abortuary staff. I would not have believed that such abuse could happen until I witnessed it myself,” he added.
Speaking on behalf of Campaign Life, president Jim Hughes said, “the abortionists keep charging pro-lifers in the hope of getting rid of the picketers. We know the picketers have saved some babies and these actions show that we are perhaps saving more babies than we know. I greatly admire the tenacity of the picketers who continue to stand witness for the unborn.”