Rosemary Connell also in prison
awaiting trial for pro-life witness
at Toronto abortuary

By Tony Gosnach
The Interim

Linda Gibbons is to stand trial Nov. 28 on a charge related to her latest challenge of a temporary injunction prohibiting pro-life activity outside Ontario abortuaries.

Gibbons was arrested along with Rosemary Connell outside the Scott Clinic on Gerrard Street East in Toronto Oct. 17. After six court appearances – and being erroneously referred at one point for a psychological assessment – Gibbons, who does not speak during her arrests or in court out of solidarity with defenceless preborn children, was given the trial date on a charge of obstructing a peace officer. She will remain in custody until then.

Connell, who has also been charged with obstructing a peace officer, was still being held in custody at press time. Friends say Connell was given an “outrageous” set of conditions for release on bail and asked for more time to consider them, but was refused.

Gibbons has spent most of the last six years in prison for peaceful activities related to counselling efforts outside Toronto abortuaries. On several occasions, her charges have been dismissed. Ontario pro-life activists charge that police and prosecutors have made an end-run around the constitutionality of the no-protest injunction by continuously laying charges of disobeying a peace officer instead of the more appropriate one of disobeying a court order. The latter charge would leave the constitutionality of the injunction open to a court challenge.

Connell, at the Metro West Detention Centre, was reported to be trying to obtain the same court date as Gibbons, who was represented in court by New York lawyer John Broderick. Friends say Gibbons and Connell, who are on the same range in the jail, unsuccessfully tried to counsel two pregnant inmates out of abortions. The pair of inmates were later seen being escorted along with a third one into the Cabbagetown Women’s Clinic abortuary in Toronto.

During the Oct. 17 incident, several pro-life activists including Gibbons and Connell took up picket signs and walked back and forth in front of the Scott Clinic until a cadre of police and two sheriffs arrived. As one of the sheriffs read the text of the injunction, the demonstrators, apart from Gibbons and Connell, left the area. Gibbons then sat down on the sidewalk and ripped up a written copy of the injunction as it was presented to her. Connell remained nearby. Both were arrested, escorted into a waiting police cruiser and driven away.

Unlike the last time Gibbons appeared outside the Scott Clinic, no journalists were arrested. Only an Interim journalist, bearing a Toronto police-issued media pass tag, ventured into the injunction zone during the course of the incident. The tag attracted much attention from the officers present – one officer wanted to know which media outlets he was representing, while another claimed the tag was expired, even though it clearly stated it was valid until 2002.

After Gibbons and Connell were escorted away from the scene, one of the sheriffs approached the journalist, accompanied by a burly plainclothes police officer, and exceeded his legal authority by ordering him to leave the area. The journalist, unsure of his rights at that point, decided to comply. The sheriff also made a note of the journalist’s name in his papers.