Morgentaler suit against N.B. proceeds

FREDRICTON – A lawsuit launched by Henry Morgentaler to make New Brunswickers pay for abortions at his Fredericton abortion facility will advance to the trial stage after the New Brunswick government refused to appeal a court ruling in late August that gave Morgentaler legal permission to represent women seeking publicly funded abortions. The lawsuit was filed in 2004 and has advanced slowly through the preliminary stages before trial. Morgentaler claims that New Brunswick is violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and the Canada Health Act by refusing to pay for abortions at private facilities. New Brunswick Right to Life executive director Peter Ryan said, “In order for Morgentaler to succeed, the courts will have to effectively rule that an unwanted pregnancy is like an untreatable disease, and ending it is not a matter of choice but of strict medical necessity.”

Whatcott’s free expression rights upheld

REGINA – The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has overturned a human rights tribunal order against Bill Whatcott, a religious activist. In 2005, Whatcott was ordered to pay $17,500 in compensation by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal after four people claimed the anti-gay pamphlets he was distributing exposed them to hate. They claimed that Whatcott used offensive language to oppose teaching homosexuality in Saskatchewan public schools. The Court of Appeal ruled on Feb. 25 that Whatcott was entitled to distribute the flyers according to the freedom of expression provisions in the Human Rights Code and that he would not have to pay $17,500. “The manner in which children in the public school system are to be exposed to messages about different forms of sexuality and sexual identity is inherently controversial. It must always be open to public debate,” said the court. Lawyer John Carpay, executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, which intervened on Whatcott’s behalf, wrote in the Calgary Herald that “Restrictions on free speech in ‘human rights’ legislation frequently generate conflict between gays and social conservatives,” because the law requires courts and tribunals to make “arbitrary and subjective” determinations of what constitutes “extreme” according to the 1990 Supreme Court Taylor decision.

Class action suit against birth control pill

VICTORIA – British Columbia has joined a class-action lawsuit against the maker of a birth control pill that has allegedly caused serious health problems among female users. Merchant Law Group filed a lawsuit in British Columbia against Bayer Inc., the producer of the widely prescribed Yaz or Yasmin pill. “Our firm has received complaints from dozens of women across Canada who have suffered blood clots, pulmonary embolisms, gall bladder removals and other serious medical emergencies,” said the firm in a press release. The lawsuits claim that these pills use a new formulation with the hormone drospirenone, which make them riskier than other birth control pills. Similar lawsuits have been filed in Ontario and Saskatchewan. According to IMS Health Canada, a company that tracks prescriptions, there were over two million prescriptions for these pills in 2009 in Canada.

Parents pull kids from Hamilton public schools

HAMILTON – Parents are pulling their children from Hamilton public schools because of the Hamilton public school board’s new sexual orientation policy. School boards in Ontario must incorporate “inclusive” education policies, on matters such as ethnicity, race, classism, and gender, by September. Phil Lees, the head of Public Education Advocates for Christian Equality and the leader of the Family Coalition Party, said that the percentage of children in non-public schools is growing because of problems in teaching issues such as sexual orientation. “What confusion is that going to cause my son?” said Kris Lehr, who took her child out of public school because of the new policy, “I think it’s sad…that  there are people who bully, but the school board has gone too far in trying to do it and has now discriminated against us.” The sexual orientation policy is still being drafted.

Former MP backs equal parenting

LONDON – Former Liberal MP Roger Gallaway (Sarnia-Lambton) told  a meeting of the London Equal Parenting Committee that equal parenting should be granted in divorce cases unless there are proven cases of domestic abuse. “An allegation of violence is a weapon,” said Gallaway, “And in Ontario we have a zero-tolerance policy, which generally speaking says that when allegations are made, it’s the male who’s removed (from the residence). And that then casts the die for what will occur in terms of child custody or access.” Gallaway co-chaired a 1998 federal report calling for stricter rules for reporting abuse. An increasing number of divorced fathers are complaining that the police and court system label men as the abusers in relationships. Last year, Maurice Vellacott introduced C-422, a private member’s bill that if passed will grant shared parenting except when cases of abuse are proven.

Sterilization column stirs controversy

TORONTO – Dr. W. Gifford-Jones received many responses from readers to a controversial column he wrote advocating for the forced sterilization of women who deliver babies with fetal alcohol syndrome. In a follow-up article in the Toronto Sun, Gifford-Jones, the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker, details some of the reaction. Several criticized him for lack of compassion for the mothers, and advocated better education and social services to reduce fetal alcohol syndrome. A reader from Windsor wrote, “Your views are contrary to the Hippocratic oath. Why not sterilize all women who have a handicap?” Another from Brockville wrote, “God gave us these children and we must also look after their mothers.” However, some readers also praised his proposal, noting the social problems caused by fetal alcohol syndrome and the cost for taxpayers.