However unintentionally, it has given the impression that the law enforcement arm of the Government can be used to enforce a partisan political purpose” (Steven Owen, Globe & Mail, August 25, 1988).
“The rule of law in a democracy requires the public’s ongoing consent and confidence in order to survive. Any widespread unease with the essential fairness of our justice system can cripple it. Perception becomes reality when suspicion of injustice is allowed to fester. The system must be capable of quickly and convincingly resolving any such doubts.” (Steven Owen – November 1990).
“…it is crucial that the justice system in this province be seen to be independent, not corrupted by politics, and is seen to be working in the public’s best interest.” (B.C. Attorney General Colin Gabelmann, Vancouver Sun, October 4, 1994).
Mr. Gabelmann might believe passionately in the above statements, but his actions and the actions of his Ministry and others in the law-enforcement arm of government suggest otherwise.
In 1988 then Ombudsman Steven Owen was asked to investigate the inappropriate surveillance of B.C.’s so-called pro-choice movement by the Social Credit Party. At stake was not merely the “covert” surveillance of those who were abortion advocates, but the fact that, although legal, it “…sent a dangerous message to those who held a different view.”
Five years later, in 1993, representatives of the NDP government held a series of secret, clandestine meetings with various representatives of B.C.’s abortion industry. In his defense of these meetings, Gabelmann has stated that he and Ministry officials were merely meeting with those organizations that held a court injunction against pro-life activism.
But that’s where reality differs with Gabelmann’s view of the facts.
Colin Gabelmann, the Attorney General and chief law enforcement officer of the province, met with representatives of an organization, the B.C. Coalition for Abortion Clinics, that has, by its own admission, advocated, organized and executed illegal activity of a political nature in the province of British Columbia. The BCCAC is not a registered society in B.C. It does not have legal standing in regards to any litigation, past or present, nor does it have standing in any court order, injunction or similar legal document. It is a political lobby group, plain and simple.
In October 1990, Joy Thompson of the BCCAC was arrested for illegally occupying then Justice Minister Kim Campbell’s office. A fundraising letter issued admits that the entire demonstration was advocated, organized and executed by the BCCAC.
Joy Thompson, again representing the BCCAC, advocated in a press report in 1990 that if Canada’s proposed abortion legislation (Bill C-43) was passed then everyone should be prepared to “defy the law.”
Other literature issued by the BCCAC state that “Contributions to the BCCAC are not tax-creditable due to the political nature of our work…”
A newsletter sent out by the Coalition and available at the Vancouver Public Library talks about its mandate “as fighting the anti-choice minority.”
The BCCAC’s newsletter “Basis of Unity” states: “The BCCAC seeks to accomplish its goals by continuing to build a broad based political movement which undertakes political action…”
So pro-lifers are asking themselves whether it is appropriate for the Attorney General or members of his office to meet with an avowed political group to discuss ways of limiting their political opposition (the pro-life movement).
They point out the following as grounds for suggesting the A-G’s office is guilty of political partisan-ship:
- Ernie Quantz, Assistant Deputy Attorney General for the Criminal Justice Branch, meets with representatives of an organization, the BCCAC, that has, by its own admission, advocated, organized and executed illegal activity of a political nature in the province of B.C.
- Boris Tyzuk of the Legal Services Branch of the A-G’s office meets with representatives of the BCCAC.
- Lance Bernard, Vancouver Crown Prosecutor, meets with representatives of the BCCAC.
- Brian Neal, Bill Scigliano, Michael McEnvoy and Joan Young (all members of the A-G’s office) meet with representatives of the BCCAC.
Mr. Gabelmann is already on record as refusing to meet with pro-life groups to discuss concerns regarding the rising harassment of pro-life individuals in B.C.
“Instead,” says one pro-life spokesman, “the fact that he has met with the BCCAC does not encourage those of us who hold different political views.”
Pro-life groups throughout B.C. say they are waiting to see what move will be made against them, either directly by this government, or indirectly, under the advice of members of the law enforcement arm of this government and initiated by BCCAC.
(Ted Gerk is the President of the B.C. Pro-life Society.)