The profile of the pro-life movement in British Columbia has just been raised a level by the ineptitude of a decidedly pro-choice provincial government.
On April 18, the Provincial Legislature erupted into a series of shouts, name calling and general disarray. It ended with Liberal MLA Mike de Jong ordered out of the House for indicating those involved in the justice system were calling Attorney General Colin Gabelmann a liar for swearing a false affidavit.
Gabelmann couldn’t quite understand all the fuss. Like his NDP counterpart in Ontario, Marion Boyd, Gabelmann is not a lawyer and not particularly well versed in legal procedure and has raised questions within B.C. as to whether he should hold the office of Attorney General.
Suddenly the credibility of the NDP government was in question. The Vancouver media scrambled to defend Gabelmann but to no avail. After a series of events, they too were forced to admit the scandal had indeed hurt the government.
The events leading up to the accusations are self-evident. Last year on April 30, Gordon Watson was arrested during a pro-life protest and charged with contempt of court for violating an earlier B.C. Supreme Court order that he stay away from the clinic.
On June 17, Watson traveled to Victoria to subpoena Gabelmann as a witness in the contempt of court charge. However, the following day Watson was informed by the Attorney General’s office that his request for information regarding the June 17 meeting had been declined. On August 25, Gabelmann responded to Watson’s subpoena with a sworn affidavit declaring he had a single meeting with the abortion coalition and did not discuss Watson or take any notes.
Only after a Vancouver Sun reporter faxed the Attorney General copies of what appeared to be his notes from the meeting (notes that turned up when Watson requested information about the meeting under freedom of information legislation) did Gabelmann discover his first affidavit.
He was suffering a memory lapse, or so he claimed. Besides, in his first affidavit, Gabelmann said he considered Watson’s subpoena to be for “political purposes” and therefore an abuse of court process.
On April 13, Gabelmann filed a new affidavit and appointed a special prosecutor to handle private information brought against the Attorney General by Watson, refusing to step aside, even after repeated requests from the Opposition (the Opposition like the media hesitated to approach this serious matter, possibly because of their fear of the word abortion).
“The bad smell lingers,” according to a Vancouver Sun editorial. “Attorney General Colin Gabelmann is off the hook and won’t be prosecuted for perjury, but his credibility – and that of the government – has been damaged by his recent embarrassment.”
Consider how much better he would appear in the public eye today if he had stepped aside while he was being investigated by special prosecutor Richard Peck for swearing a false affidavit. Not only would he be back in office after a short absence, but he would be getting congratulations from all around for having done the honourable thing.
Because he didn’t, it is his judgement that is now suspect. And because Premier Mike Harcourt refused to ask him to, the premier – who in Opposition demanded the resignation of then premier Bill Vander Zalm when he was the subject of a special prosecutor’s investigation – has exposed himself as a hypocrite.”
One has to consider that these are tough words from a newspaper that is knowingly on the other side of the spectrum. Nonetheless, the editorial goes on to state that “nor is this the end of the matter, for Mr. Gabelmann must now explain why he held a private meeting with abortion clinic representatives – the subject of the erroneous affidavit – but has declined to do the same with anti-abortionists.”
The Sun also states that there are “reasonable” people among the “anti-abortion” forces – quite an admission for a biased press.
Gabelmann’s refusal to talk to the other side raises a perception of bias that ill suits the person in charge of the administration of justice, according to the Sun. It is exactly the same message the pro-life forces have been trying to make since the NDP government took office. Too bad it took so long for the media to realize its validity.