Ontario’s justice officials seem to be increasing the stakes in their treatment of pro-life political prisoner Linda Gibbons.
At an April 2 court appearance, Gibbons was found guilty of breaking probation in connection with her continuing refusal to recognize the provincial injunction against pro-life demonstrations near abortion clinics and hospitals. She had also been charged with disobeying a court order, but the Court chose to drop the second offence.
She was scheduled to appear for sentencing April 28.
The charge could carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison, and it is believed the Crown will be seeking a minimum 12-month sentence. However a comment made by Judge Michael Fairgrieve at April 2 court appearance could be more indicative of the Attorney General’s attitude towards Gibbons.
If you want to be a martyr, we’ll make a martyr of you, Fairgrieve said. His words may have been partly the result of frustration at Gibbons’ habit of remaining completely silent at all court appearances.
Gibbons has spent the better part of the last three years in prison for her actions. She has become the symbol of an active resistance to the injunction which was initiated in 1992 by the previous NDP government to restrict pro-life activity.
Gibbons was visited in prison April 11 by noted pro-life attorney John Broderick of New York. During the visit, Gibbons repeated to Broderick her belief that the Attorney General’s office continues to prosecute her for political purposes. She believes the Crown is unwilling to charge her with breaking the injunction for fear the law would not survive a proper challenge. As a result, the Crown continues to charge her with lesser offenses such as obstructing a peace officer, mischief, or breaking probation.
Broderick hopes to expose the Crown’s political manipulation of the Gibbons case in an effort to have injunction withdrawn.
Broderick had originally invited noted U.S. activist Joan Andrews to accompany him on his latest visit with Gibbons. Andrews served nearly five years in prison in the late 1980s for her part in Operation Rescue activities. However, an illness on the part of Andrews’ youngest child prevented a meeting between the two pro-lifer workers.
Meanwhile, local pro-life workers continue to show their support for Linda Gibbons. They organized a candlelight vigil outside a candlelight vigil outside the Metro West Detention Centre April 20. Two days later, pro-lifers organized a public demonstration outside the Old City Hall courtroom in Toronto to draw attention to Linda’s plight. The demonstration was scheduled to coincide with her latest sentencing. That was put over to April 28.