A new kind of activism has been evident in the Canadian pro-life movement over the past year. Each month, The Interim has reported on the court cases of picketers, on the efforts of sidewalk counselors, on sit ins (both in the Harbord Street abortuary itself and in the Ontario legislature), and on the constant picketing of premier David Peterson – a persistent and unwelcome reminder to him of a broken political promise.
Two pro-lifers have spent time in jail, some decent family men have had threatening phone calls made to their employers, other have been threatened by a shot gun. These are extraordinary – and, thankfully, rare – incidents, but those who picket and side-walk counsel regularly have come to expect abusive language, unpleasant gestures and constant obstruction from those who support or protect the abortionists.
Yet the trial of Fathers de Valk and Colleton and Pastor Fred Vaughan has set a precedent valuable to all of us. The three were acquitted of the charge of mischief, and the Judge ruled that private citizens have a right at common law to “take reasonable steps” to prevent criminals from plying their trade. Nevertheless, although found not guilty, the three are still required to “show cause” why they should not be restrained from returning to the abortuary.
The clergymen have shown us that the tradition of non-violent civil disobedience is honourable and valid, and that it is protected by law. They have shown that there are leaders who care so deeply about others’ lives and well-being that they can put aside thought of personal embarrassment and discomfort in order to witness to an injustice. Such witnessing is even more embarrassing to those charged with upholding the law and for the lawbreakers alike.
As the authorities won’t do their duty, we hope many more responsible citizens will come forward to follow the lead of these three courageous men.