Cecilia Moore of Vancouver has won a small victory in the B.C. Supreme Court of Appeal. The court et aside an earlier Supreme Court order which struck out part of her claim. Her case will now have a fresh start when it is reheard in the province’s highest court.
Moore’s ordeal began in the spring of 1985 when, as an employee of the provincial Ministry of Human Resources, she refused to sign a temporary MHR-sponsored medical coverage for payment of an abortion. The payment was to fall under the GAIN regulations of the province of B.C. for acute illness.
Moore refused to sign for a number of reasons. In the first place, the applicant did not qualify for the coverage: pregnancy is neither acute, nor is it an illness, Moore point out. Further, the applicant’s doctor had certified that the abortion was inappropriate in this case. For these reasons, the abortion did not meet the requirement of the Criminal Code of Canada.
More important though, was the fact that it offended Moore’s conscience to aid an abet an abortion. As a Catholic, she believed that she would be committing a mortal sin.
As a result of her refusal to aid and abet an illegal abortion, Moore was dismissed from her job as an auxiliary financial assistant with the Ministry.
Moore unsuccessfully pursued her grievance through her union, the BCGEU, as the union declined to take the grievance to arbitration. The union was of the opinion that the case was one of mere disobedience, and that her only recourse was “to work first, grieve later.”
Contrary to code
Moore then took her claim to the B.C. Supreme Court in July 1986. In her statement of claim, Moore declared that her rights under the Charter and the Human Rights Act were violated; that the employment policy of the Ministry of Human Resources in respect to abortion is contrary to the Charter and the Human Rights Act; and that the practice and policy of the Minister and others in connection with the furnishing of funds to procure an abortion is contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada.
She met with further disappointment when the presiding judge, Mr. Justice Lander, dismissed crucial parts of her claim.
On May 29, the B.C. Court of Appeal gave Moore a “limited victory” by setting aside Lander’s order that struck out parts of her claim. In the words of Judge Taggart of the Court of Appeal. “This case raises serious Charter issues. It cries out for trial.”
Moore greeted the Court’s decision with enthusiasm. “The B.C. Court of Appeal’s proposed scheme is welcome in these rather trying circumstances as my claim…will be heard and decided upon before the Appeal Court within a reasonable period of time.”
Moore’s case comes at an opportune time, following the encouraging ruling on the Lavigne case regarding freedom of conscience (story elsewhere in this issue). Moore’s action is not merely a domestic dispute over employment, but she says, “a dispute relating to the fundamental constitutional right of every citizen.”