Ontario Attorney-General Charles Harnick has announced he will not be a candidate in the provincial election, a move that is being applauded by pro-lifers. Harnick was first elected MPP for Willowdale in 1990, and was re-elected in the landslide Tory victory of June 1995. Premier Mike Harris appointed him attorney-general on June 26, a position he has held ever since.
Just three days after being appointed attorney-general, Harnick told the Toronto Star that he would review the injunction against peaceful pro-life witnessing outside abortuaries, an injunction that was sought and obtained by the former NDP government in August 1994.
In opposition he stressed, “My stand in opposing the government’s injunction has nothing to do with my support of the pro-life or pro-choice philosophies. I oppose the … injunction solely on the basis of the restriction on the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.” He said there were other ways to remedy any problems that might arise from picketing abortuaries.
However, he never scrapped the injunction, and instead become its defender. He claimed the injunction is needed to protect the lives of the people who work and use abortuaries, and cited recent violence at a few American sites as examples of what might happen without the injunction. In a stock letters sent to pro-lifers who inquired about the injunction he said, “I am satisfied that any limits which the injunction may impose are justified in the interest of public safety.” Yet, during the Jan. 16, 1997 broadcast of The Michael Coren Show on CFRB Radio in Toronto, Harnick could not answer a direct question from a caller who asked how pro-life picketers threatened public safety.
Steve Jalsevac, a Toronto director of Campaign Life Coalition, said pro-lifers are disappointed with Harnick’s performance as attorney-general. “We’re delighted he will not be the A-G, because he has been a huge disappointment on issues of concern to us.”
Jalsevac stressed that prior to becoming attorney-general, Harnick seemed fair-minded and spoke out quite strongly against the injunction. But once he became the attorney-general, Harnick ignored pro-lifers and refused to even discuss the injunction. “Charles Harnick saw a problem,” Jalsevac said, “recognized that something needed to be done, but didn’t do anything about it. He then became part of the problem.”
Jalsevac said the disappointment had three roots: Harnick’s staff was in charge of him, instead of the other way around; he failed to exercise leadership; and he fell prey to the politically correct mindset that infects the attorney-general’s ministry.