Victim has witnesses, licence plate of assailant, but officers say complaint ‘isn’t going anywhere’
On June 8 pro-life activist and Interim board member Bill Whatcott was assaulted and his sign was destroyed as he was demonstrating outside the Scott abortuary in downtown Toronto.
Whatcott told The Interim that he was standing across the street from Scott’s, peacefully bearing witness to what happens inside. He was carrying a sign with two pictures: the first showing the bodies of Jewish people murdered by the Nazi’s, with the caption, “Hitler’s holocaust,” the second showing an aborted child, with the caption, “Canada’s holocaust.”
Shortly after Whatcott began his noon-hour witness, a motorist stopped and got out of his car, and began to argue angrily with him. The man said his parents had lived through the Jewish holocaust, and then slapped the sign out of Whatcott’s hands and forcibly took it.
The man, described by Whatcott as tall, athletic, and in his late 20s or early 30s, then drove away. Whatcott had the presence of mind to record the licence plate number and a full description of the vehicle. Furthermore, Whatcott recorded the names and addresses of two passers-by who witnessed the scene, and he has an audio tape of the incident.
Despite this evidence, however the police seem unwilling to do anything.
Between 12:15 and 12:30 p.m., Whatcott called 51 Division to complain about the incident, and gave the name of the location, Aid to Women, where he could be reached. After an hour, Whatcott called again. He was told the police were busy and that his case was not a priority.
He called again later, this time not complaining just about the assault but also about the failure of the police to take action. He was told they had no record of his first call but that a car would be sent shortly. At 5 p.m., Whatcott and Aid to Women counsellor Robert Hinchey went to 51 Division to file a complaint in person. When they got there, the police claimed they had just sent someone out to talk to Whatcott.
However, sources who were inside the Aid to Women office throughout say the police did not come by that day.
It wasn’t until the next day that Whatcott actually filed his complaint; but the police seemed, in Whatcott’s words, “dismissive.” They told him that the situation was “no big deal” and that the complaint “wasn’t going anywhere.” They also noted that the sign could be offensive to some people.
Whatcott challenged them, saying that if he had taken a sign from a homosexual activist that he found offensive, they would act.
The police told Whatcott that the most they would do is charge the man with mischief.
Whatcott said the police refused to take his complete list of witnesses or to use his audio tape. They also threatened Hinchey with obstruction of justice for asking the constables what constituted assault.
Paul Vandervet, a lawyer in Brantford, is representing Whatcott. He told The Interim that assault is “the intentional application of force without consent.”
Vandervet said there was another crime, that of theft, committed in this instance. He said that the police, in saying that they might consider charging the man with mischief, are doing the bare minimum under the law. Vandervet says “mischief is the interference with someone else’s property.” That charge would illustrate a “reluctance to act” he said.
Police at Division 51 would not answer questions from The Interim, saying they could not comment on a current “situation.” Asked whether the situation was indeed an investigation, they offered no comment.
Furthermore, the front desk at 51 Division has, as Whatcott describes it, “obstructed justice.” He went down to complain about his treatment at the hands of the police but they said the police badge numbers of the officers he was going to complain about were incorrect. However, they are the same badge numbers that another pro-life activist obtained independently while pursuing the truth about this investigation.
Whatcott is organizing a demonstration outside 51 Division on July 1 at 12 p.m. to bring attention to police inaction on this issue. At 2 p.m. the demonstration will move to police headquarters on College Street.
He plans on bringing signs that say, “End Police Discrimination,” “Police Won’t Investigate Assaults on Peaceful Pro-Lifers,” and “Assaulting Peaceful Pro-Lifers Isn’t Legal, Just Tolerated.”
This isn’t the first time that Whatcott has had trouble with 51 Division. He has been arrested several times for peaceful pro-life witnessing and he says he has been mistreated while in custody before. One officer mocks him to his face, calling him “Mr. Abortion.”
As for the assault and theft, Whatcott says he just wants his sign back and a letter of apology from the man who took it. But he doubts he will get that much.
Vandervet said that the inaction of the police means “pro-life activists are losing their civil rights” as the police deem arbitrarily what is protected free speech.