It has been almost two years since the “Cross of Hope Mission” rescue occurred at the Morgentaler abortuary in Halifax. On October 21, 1992, nine pro-lifers were arrested for peacefully blocking the abortuary entrance.

The nine were charged with public mischief and on February 25, 1994, were found guilty of that offence.

However, in a bizarre twist of fate, Judge Albert Bremner, whose signature appeared on the judgment, was not in the courtroom. He was in the hospital recovering from an overdose of prescription drugs.

Since then, sentencing for the nine has been delayed several times for several reasons, the most significant being the resignation of Judge Bremner from the bench. During this two-year period, trial dates have been postponed a total of twelve times. Paul Miller, counsel for the nine, believes that because of the delays, there is considerable justification for an appeal.

To avoid an appeal, prosecuting attorney Christopher Nicholson consulted with Miller and offered the defendants a “conditional discharge.” Under the terms of the discharge, the nine were asked to agree to six months probation, to sign an undertaking to stay off Morgentaler’s property for six months and to perform “some” community service. In return, the defendants would not be convicted, and would avoid a criminal record.

After carefully considering the options and reviewing the evens of the past two years, they decided not to accept the conditional discharge. Learning that the prosecution was also negotiating with Morgentaler’s Halifax lawyer, Ann Derrick, aided their decision.

One June 21, 1994, Paul Miller was summoned to appear before Chief Justice Elmer Macdonald for a pre-sentence hearing. Mr. MacDonald was concerned that the nine had not accepted the crown’s “generous” offer. Miller explained to the judge that the nine stood firm in their conviction that they did nothing wrong and that striking a bargain was akin to an acceptance of guilt and punishment. He also announced that his defendants were seeking an absolute discharge (based on the circumstances surrounding the delays and the solid grounds for appeal).

Mr. MacDonalds responded by stating B.C. precedents (where rescuers have encountered stiff penalties to discourage further activism). He went on to stress that an absolute discharge was highly unlikely as there was a need for a deterrent.

Later the same morning Miller appeared on behalf of the nine before Judge Joseph Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy expressed anger and disappointment that a suitable resolution has not been reached. He scheduled sentencing for September 22 and stated: “There will be no further delays in this matter. There will be sentencing on that date!”

The nine must now wait two more months before their case is resolved. They take solace in the fact that during the drawn-out ordeal, they have not wavered in their conviction that it is right and just to intervene to save inborn children from death.

“Avoiding a criminal record is desirable, but not as desirable as having a clear conscience and holding out for justice,” said one of the rescuers.

Another quoted well-known rescuer Fr. Ted Colleton, who, when faced with a similar situation, said, “[had I agreed] I would have been free, but my soul would have been captive.