In the April edition of The Interim we reported that the liaison committee of the Canadian Medical Association put forward a resolution to have the law Reform Commission of Canada study the federal legislation on abortion. The terms of reference in the study left no doubt that the liaison committee intended that the conclusion be favourable to their point of view. This resolution was first presented to the Canadian Barr association council at it’s Banff meeting in February 1983, where it was debated and defeated. Further, Frank Muldon, the then Chairman of the Law Reform Commission also refused to carry out the study on the grounds that it could make no contribution to the debate since it has already been successfully studied and public opinion had already been crystallized on the issue. The liaison committee, however, apparently does not take defeat lightly and pushed its resolution yet again, this time to the floor at the annual meeting of the Canadian Barr Association held in Quebec City last August. The Committee stated that the reason for presenting its resolution yet again was that “recent events” undoubtedly refer to the Borowski trial and the attempts by Morgentaler to establish illegal abortion “clinics” in Manitoba and Ontario. Supporters of this resolution, however, ran into a “roadblock” in pushing the resolution-namely the eloquence and expertise of Dr. Morris Schumiatcher, Q.C., who recently argued the Borowski case in the Saskatchewan Queen’s Bench, and John Stephens, Q.C., of Toronto, who also has argued several pro-life cases in Ontario. The resolution was overwhelmingly defeated. A national association of pro-life lawyers was formed in Quebec City in August, at the meeting of the Canadian Ba Association. Before the business part of the meeting, outstanding pro-life lawyers addressed the meeting. The first speaker was George Carruthers, President of the British Columbia Advocates for Human Life, who discussed his case on abortion, which is now before the Federal Court of Canada. Mr. Carruthers is seeking to obtain a narrower definition of the word “health” as it appears in the abortion section of the Criminal Code and if he is successful, between 95-98 percent of abortions performed in Canada would be rejected. Calgary lawyer, Derek Maguire, discussed his pro-life action brought against the City of Calgary, which gave a grant to the pro-abortion women’s group called “Calgary Birth Control Association”. Mr. Maguire sought an injunction to restrain the city from making such a grant. His case was argued before the Queen’s Bench of Alberta and the Court of Appeal. Although Mr. Maguire was not successful, he did state that it is at least a matter of record that a member of the Canadian Barr Association did something to “speak against abortion” and that history will at least show that the horror of abortion has been questioned in his community.
Gerry Ferguson, Professor of Law at the University of Victoria, who was the next speaker, then discussed the landmark Stephen Dawson case, in which a young child was refused medical care (he had a block brain shunt required to alleviate the build-up of brain fluid) by the lower court, but who was, by The Supreme Court of British Columbia, ordered to receive the appropriate medical care required to continue his life. Mr. Ferguson stated that this case was of importance in that it sets forth the presumption that the courts must be in favour of life, and no one has the prerogative to impose on another because of alleged quality of life. In short, by this decision, the court held that the life of a handicapped child is not less valuable than that of other children. Dr. Morris Shumiatcher, Q.C., was the final speaker and he gave a brief summary of the superb witnesses that appeared on behalf of Mr. Borowski in the Queen’s Bench of Saskatchewan. He stated that he was “hopeful” of the outcome of the Borowski case and that the decision should be handed down by Mr. Justice Matheson sometime in the next six weeks or so. During the business part of the meeting, Mr. Ernest Whrle of Winnipeg was selected as president. Other officers include Emile Colas, Q.C., of Montreal, vice-president; Gerry Ferguson, professor of law at the University of Victoria, secretary; and Gwen Landolt, Toronto lawyer, treasurer.
Chairman of the organization’s advisory board is Dr. Morris Schumiatcher, Q.C., of Regina. According to the association’s constitution, the aim of the pro-life lawyers is “to engage in charitable activities fostering respect for human life, particularly the life of unborn children.” The non-sectarian, non-political organization is open to law students, lawyers and judges. The head office will be in Winnipeg. The Canadian Advocates for Human Life will have representatives from each province; however, each provincial group can act independently. The national pro-life lawyers’ group will emphasize education of the legal profession and the public on “life issues”. They will also do research on these issues and publish their findings. In the future, there are hopes that the national body could fund full-time lawyers to research life issues and keep tabs on judgements that spell out the concrete meaning of the Charter of Rights.