Judge Adams imposes limited restrictions as 18 pro-lifers await trial

The strong arm of the government failed to ban pro-life activity from Ontario streets, but an Ontario Court judge has restricted some picketing and counseling in his decision released August 30.

Justice George Adams chose to steer a middle course between the pro-life defendants and the claims of the Attorney General in his long-awaited decision on Marion Boyd’s request to prohibit pro-life activity on the streets of Ontario.

Adams’ order restricts pro-lifers in some areas of the province and allows them to picket in others.  He ruled pro-life picketing and counseling is constitutionally protected but it may be reasonable to regulate that conduct.

The nature of the decision came as little surprise to those involved in the case.  Most were expecting this sort of a compromise decision.

“The court case was not about abortion, it was about politics,” said Sabina McLuhan, spokeswoman for Campaign Life Coalition.  “The NDP has to appease special interest groups to regain voter support it has lost over the past several years.”

She said the movement will have to decide where it goes from this decision.

We have to find new strategies to ensure women walking into a clinic know that people are out there ready and willing to help them,” she said.  “The primary focus of the pro-life movement is not winning or losing court cases.  The primary focus is stopping the horror of abortion.”

Both sides have seven days to appeal the Adams decision and at press time there was no indication whether this avenue would be pursued.  The temporary injunction is in effect until a trial or other final disposition of the case.  The judge asked for further submissions by lawyers regarding costs in the case.

The massive 548 page decision was released seven months after a three-week court hearing and months of extensive cross examinations by government lawyers, lawyers representing the 18 pro-life defendants  and lawyers representing the abortionists.  The government was seeking an unprecedented order banning all pro-life activity within 500 feet of 23 named locations across the province.

Judge Adams refused to extend the injunction to the five hospitals named; deciding that pro-lifers could continue their activities unimpeded.  Adams also refused the government’s request to prohibit the use of abortionists’ names on signs and the use of the word “kills.”  He found that abortionists do not have a total right to privacy and that the word “kills” is fundamental to pro-life expression.

The temporary injunction imposes the following limitations on the pro-life activity:

–All pro-life activity within 60 feet of the entrances of two Toronto abortuaries is prohibited.  The buffer zone around the Choice in Health Clinic is to be 30 feet.

–From 60 to 160 feet, sidewalk counseling is allowed but if the woman seeking an abortion asks the counselors to stop, they must withdraw at least ten feet, or discontinue communication.  Outside of 160 feet there are no limitations.

–Pro-life activity is prohibited within a 25-foot radius of the entrances to the abortionists’ offices named in the injunction.

–Picketing within a 500 foot radius of the homes of the abortionists named.

–Peter Jervis, the lawyer representing the Toronto defendants said the judge was attempting to balance the constitutional rights of  pro-lifers and the right of women to be offered this information, with the privacy interests of women seeking abortions.  But Jervis said he was surprised the testimony of women who have been helped by sidewalk counseling didn’t have more of an effect on the case.

–“I am personally disappointed the judge was not prepared to admit the combination of peaceful counselling within the buffer zone,” he said from his office.  “There is clear evidence that sidewalk counselling is beneficial to some women.”

He said the decision is a partial victory for pro-lifers.

“The Attorney General went for a total prohibition and got a lot less,” he said.  “Pro-lifers can still do what the Attorney General said she didn’t want them to do.”

At a press conference earlier in the day Jervis refused to be drawn into stating whether his clients had won or lost the case.

“The court has decided to regulate picketing.  The court has done so in a manner which permits picketing but limits it.  Whether one calls that a win or a loss, the reality is the court has not totally prohibited picketing.”

David Brown, representing pro-life defendants outside Toronto, echoed his colleague’s comments on the failure of Marion Boyd to get what she wanted.

“The Attorney General has failed in her sweeping effort to eliminate peaceful pro-life picketing at locations where abortions are performed or which are connected with the providing of abortion,” he said.  “If you were in court and listening to what the government lawyers said, the principle they were advocating would have shut down pro-life picketing at over 300 locations in Ontario.”

He said the Attorney General’s position was “We need 500 feet not an inch less.”

“That’s what she wanted,” Brown said.  Marion Boyd cranked up the legal machinery to get that. She put 18 individuals to extraordinary expense to achieve that objective.  She showed no flexibility.  For her it was all or nothing.  And in the light of that approach, the judge has come back and said no.”

The judge also refused to extend the order to Jane Ubertino and Errol Alchin.  Ubertino prays quietly along the street outside of the Colodny Clinic in Toronto.  The judge found no basis to stop her activity.  Rev. Alchin, a minister from Brantford, had only participated in two Life Chains.

“Jane is pleased with this result in a bitter-sweet sort of way,” said Ubertino’s lawyer Peter Lauwers.  “On the one hand her right to do what she has been doing was recognized, respected and protected by the judge.  It’s still safe to pray on the streets in Ontario.

“On the other hand there’s a little bitterness there as well because she never ought to have been drawn into this case.  Having the full power of the state brought to bear on an individual is a fearsome thing.”

“I’m not surprised but I am disappointed,” said the pastor of the judge’s decision not to issue an order against him.  “My heart is in the movement.  I think this is an attempt to muzzle people who have a righteous approach to life.”

Ban on picketing and counselling within a 60 foot limit at the Scott and Buruianna centre and 30 feet at Colodny’s. (Attorney General requested a 500-foot ban on picketing and counseling.)

No ban on hospital picketing. (Attorney General requested a 500-foot ban.)

25-foot ban on picketing abortionists’ offices. (Attorney General asked for a 500-foot ban.)

500-foot ban on picketing abortionists’ homes. (Attorney General requested a 500-foot ban.)

No limits on language or representations on signs. (Attorney General requested strict limitations on signs including using the word “kills” and naming the abortionists.)