On Friday, March 10, 1989, the Metro Toronto Police Commission denied the appeal initiated in January 1988 by 10-year police force veteran Constable David Packer against his dismissal from the Toronto police force.
In April 1987, the father of five children refused to obey an order assigning him to patrol outside the Morgentaler abortuary. In January 1988, Toronto Police Superintendent Bernard Nadeau found Constable Packer guilty of insubordination. He ordered him to resign immediately, staying on the force for the duration of the appeal.
The police commission upheld the dismissal claiming that Constable Packer did not take action in time to notify his superiors of his opposition to serving on the foot patrol outside Morgentaler’s premises. Thus, the commission said the Constable’s objections did not constitute a reasonable request.
The commission’s reasoning differed in nature from the January 1988 judgment. At that time Superintendent Nadeau charged that Constable Packer had by his own action “violated almost every ingredient of his police oath.” Nadeau denied that police officers could follow their “conscience.”
Despite expert witnesses who elaborated on the role of conscience in following God’s will over man’s, Superintendent Nadeau seemed to think that “conscience” meant doing whatever comes into one’s head at any one time. Consequently, he claimed that allowing officers to follow their conscience would “lead to anarchy.”
In both the hearing before the police Tribunal and the one before the Police Commission, counsel Harry Black based his defence almost exclusively on labour relations law. For example, an employee has the right to be assigned other duties when his moral or religious convictions are compromised. Little mention was made that at the time of Packer’s objections the Morgentaler ‘clinic’ was utterly illegal by federal law, a fact confirmed publicly by several judges in provincial court cases prior to the event.
Police were assigned duty outside the illegal abortuary by Attorney General Ian Scott who refused to prosecute Morgentaler and his fellow abortionists Robert Scott, Nikki Colodny and others. The police detail was unpopular with police officers who were told that they were “keeping the peace” when, in reality, they were guarding a killing centre – and an illegal one at that.
The latest decision came one day after the Supreme Court declined to rule on the Borowski court case on behalf of the rights of the unborn. “It gives me a lot of sorrow,” stated Constable Packer after the reading of the Commission’s report, “to have to say that I’m ashamed to be a police officer.” He still has the right to appeal the decision to the Ontario Police Commission. About a dozen members of Campaign Life Coalition demonstrated outside police headquarters in support of Constable Packer.
Toronto Sun columnist Michele Mandel comprehended neither the conduct of the constable or that of his supporters. In her column she described them mockingly as “those who zealously believe that they are on a direct mission from the Lord Himself, with divine dispensation to go above the law, to disregard heathen opposition.” She may be closer to the truth than she thinks.