Paul Tuns

Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code, is an omnibus bill that if passed will amend the Criminal Code to make it a crime to impede others from obtaining or providing health services. It will also amend the Canada Labour Code to provide employees with up to 10 days of medical leave of absence.

C-3 would add to the Criminal Code three provisions: “create an offence of intimidating a person in order to impede them from obtaining health services, intimidating a health professional in order to impede them in the performance of their duties or intimidating a person who assists a health professional in order to impede the person in providing that assistance;” “create an offence of obstructing or interfering with a person’s lawful access to a place at which health services are provided, subject to a defence of attending at the place for the purpose only of obtaining or communicating information;” and “add the commission of an offence against a person who was providing health services and the commission of an offence that had the effect of impeding another person from obtaining health services as aggravating sentencing factors for any offence.”

Each offense is punishable for up to 10 years in prison.

In a statement Campaign Life Coalition denounced C-3, saying it would “render the entire country one giant bubble zone.”

While C-3 is ostensibly a response to anti-COVID policy demonstrations, CLC national president Jeff Gunnarson said, “Bill C-3 could strip pro-life advocates of their democratic right to freely and peacefully witness to the sanctity of human life to women seeking abortions and those committing them.” He continued, “In effect, Bill C-3 could criminalize efforts to offer women alternatives to abortion through peaceful demonstrations, prayer, and side-walk counselling right across the country.” Gunnarson added, “Laws that censor Canadian citizens, stripping them of their rights and freedoms to speak and to gather have no place in a free and democratic society; and the proposed law “will simply muzzle Canadian citizens everywhere.”

Gunnarson also stated that C-3 “appears to be the most egregious ‘bubble zone’ legislation to date.”

Six provinces have anti-free speech bubble zone laws that prohibit pro-life witnessing near facilities that commit abortions. In November, Saskatchewan passed a law similar to C-3 that prohibits all demonstrations near medical facilities unless it is organized by unions as a job action.

Gunnarson said amending the Criminal Code to make it illegal to “provoke a state of fear” is “highly subjective and not described in the bill, making it prone to abuse.”

During the federal election campaign in September, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said, in reaction to demonstrations against COVID measures that took place near hospitals, that he would outlaw demonstrations near medical facilities. This was despite the fact that demonstrations were peaceful and no one was barred from entering hospitals or accessing their services.

Gunnarson said he has no doubt the federal government will use it to silence pro-life demonstrators. “Mr. Trudeau has had a personal vendetta against pro-life advocates since before he was first elected. He’s barred pro-life individuals from running for the Liberal Party. He’s denied summer job grants to pro-life organizations. And now, he’s promising to strip pro-life organizations of their charitable tax status.”

CLC campaigns manager David Cook said that intimidation and harassment is already a crime under existing laws and questioned the motivation behind C-3. He said that the deliberately vague and undefined “state of fear” criteria is designed to cast a large net to target pro-lifers.

The government admits that C-3 is meant to prevent pro-life witnessing. Justice Minister David Lametti said C-3 was designed to protect health care workers, specifically noting “professionals working at abortion clinics” and claiming, without evidence, that “the safety and security of abortion health care workers and patients continue to be a troubling issue.”

Lametti told the media that C-3 will not impede on Canadians’ freedom of expression and assembly as “Canadians who want to express their opinions in a peaceful way will be able to continue to do so.”