- Imagine you’ve done nothing wrong, nothing illegal.
- You’re not charged with anything by the police.
- But the government doesn’t like your opinion.
- So it seeks an injunction to prevent you from expressing this opinion, from speaking to people, offering assistance and information, or even praying in a quiet, peaceful manner in public places, and it seeks $500,000 in damages.
- You say that can’t happen in Ontario. This is a democracy.
On December 18th of 1992 the Task Group of Abortion Service Providers presented its final report which recommended that the Attorney General of Ontario use public injunctions to prevent demonstrations against abortion and that the Solicitor General issue a directive to all police forces indicating the measures to be taken to prevent such demonstrations. It is interesting to note that pro-life counselling and picketing outside of one Toronto abortion clinic saved the lives of 92 babies this same year!
The task group was set up in May 1991, and consisted of eleven pro-abortion health practitioners and was there to provide a concrete pro-abortion strategy for the Ontario NDP government, which it did.
In April of 1993, The Ontario NDP Government started seeking an injunction against all pro-life activity at 23 locations in 5 cities across Ontario. These included abortion clinics, doctor’s offices and homes and hospitals.
“The Plaintiff, the Attorney General, seeks an interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants, any persons acting under counsel, instruction or direction of them or any of them, and all persons having knowledge of the order of the court from:
- Watching, besetting or picketing or causing to be watched, beset or picketed the premise listed in schedule “A” to the statement of claim;
- Impeding, interfering with, blocking or obstructing or attempting to impede, interfere, block or obstruct, ingress or egress to or from siad premise by any means whatsoever;
- Causing or attempting to cause a public nuisance with five hyndred feet of the premises;
- Assaulting, harassing, impeding, obstructing threatening or intimidating patients, health care providers other their respecuve families;
- Using insulting, abusive or defamatory language or gestures, whether orally or in writing, in relation to patients or health care providers withing five hundred feet of the premises; and
- Interfering or attempting to interfer with access to or the provision of abortion services.
On August 30th 1994 the Court decision was released and Judge Adams granted a temporary injunction until “the trial or other final disposition of this action..” The decision named 16 of the original defendents and “John and Jane Doe and other persons unknown..”
The decision was 548 pages in length and Jane Unbiton and Erroll Alchin were excluded from the injunction.
- The Colodney Clinic: 30 ft zone allowing no pro-life presence at all plus a 100ft buffer zone to 130ft from the facility within which pro-lifers could not picket as they did previously. However, while approaching a woman in this zone they must remain 10 ft awat from her and immediatel “back off” if she is not willing to tal or receive literature.
- Scott and Cabbagetown Clinics: 60 ft zone allowing no pro-life presence at all plus a buffer zone to 160ft from the facility within which pro-lifers may not picket as they did previously. However, while approaching awoman in this zone they must remain 10 ft away from her and immediatel “back off” if she is not willing to talk or receive literature.
- Abortionist’s Homes: A 500ft zone where no pro-life presence is allowed at all.
- Abortionist’s Offices: A 25ft zone where no pro-life presence is allowed at all.
- Ontario Hospitals: There were no restrictions in the decision pertaining to hospitals.
In an August 31st 1994, Canada AM interview, Attorney General Marion Boyd was asked why the government instigated this action.
“Well, having made the determination that this was a legal health service that we were prepared to fund, we had to be mindful of the fact that the kind of protest that was happening was preventing women accessing the medical care of their choice. Since we certainly expect that this is a health care procedure that will be expanded in its availability to other communities, we wanted to ensure that could be done with safety and privacy of the individuals involved and of the providers.”
Asked if she called this a victory she responded;
“Certainly the judgement is very clear in its affirmation of the right to privacy and safety and the right to access health services without fear of intimidation and that is a very important principle. Although the distance in terms of the injunction was not as great as we had asked, there is a buffer zone that is considerable – a larger zone within which people can refuse to be approached by those who want to try and talk them out of a decision that they have already made. We, as a temporary measure, believe that this is certainly going to be more effective than the lack of protection, we have had in the past.”
David Browne, the defendant’s lawyer answered the following in response to the question, Why is your side calling this a victory?
“When I was retained in April of ’93 my clients faced the following, an action by the Attorney General to restrain and ban any kind of pro-life activity within 500 ft of any site connected with abortion in the places in Ontario where they are. The results of the judge’s reasons yesterday, one of my clients, a pastor in Brantford who particpates in LifeChain, had an injunction dismissed against him. The judge said that what you are doing is fine and LifeChain is something that takes place every October in cities throughout Ontario.
In Brantford, London and Kingston my clients picket frequently in front of their hospitals which perform abortions. The judge said what you are doing is fine, I.m not going to issue an injunction whatsoever. They also spend a fair amount of time picketing in front of doctor’s offices. The judge said, you can do that just stay away from the entrance by 25ft. But significantly he said that the signs you are using that identify by name doctors who do abortions are not defamatory and you can continue to use them.
In Toronto there was an individual whose form of protest was praying in front of an abortion clinic. The judge said that is fine, you can continue to do it. Where restrictions were placed on the physicians homes, the judge said; because of the repeated protest I am not going to allow you to do it and he put the restriction there. (500ft) He also created some sort of buffer zones around clinics, but in essence what the judge said is; don’t picket a person at his place of residence, there a person’s home is his castle. But when it comes to a place of work, you are free to picket peacefully on public property and use slogans as you have used before.
So from where the starting position was, the Attorney General’s office saying 500 feet you couldn’t do anthing no matter how peaceful and you couldn’t use any sign – I think there is a lot on the judgement which indicates that the judge has legitimized much of the activity that my clients have engaged in.”
The Attorney general confirmed that the government is committed to following through with the action. Marion Boyd, “[the government has] no intention of stopping this action. I should indicate that the injunction covers everyone, it does not just cover the individuals named because there is also Jon Doe, Jane Doe and any ther individual. It is important for people to know this injunction is for specific locations where there have been problems and it covers everyone.”
We Want The Debate
The 1994 Temporary injunction has now been in effect for 17 years
Linda (Gross) Gibbons: Linda was one of the 16 who remained named in the injunction when Judge Adams released his decision in August 1994. Linda had already been placed on Probation for breaching an injunction given to Dr Henry Morgentaler in 1989 which covered his Harbord St Clinic in Toronto and encompassed the Scott clinic. In 1992 she was sentenced to two years probation for breaching the Morgentaler injunction on condition that she stay away from the Scott Clinic. The next day she returned and was charged and convicted of obstriucting a police officer and breaching her probation and she was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment.
Linda Gibbons, a grandmother of four, has been a political prisoner of the Ontario government for several years.
She offers help to women entering abortion centres in Toronto. She very peacefully and lovingly tries to counsel distressed pregnant women by offering them one last chance to spare themselves the pain of an abortion and save the lives of their babies.
Linda believes that the temporary injunction which bans counseling within 60 feet of certain abortion centres (abortuaries) is unjust and therefore morally invalid. She believes it is her duty to “rescue those being led to the slaughter.”
In solidarity with children in the womb who cannot speak to defend themselves, Linda does not defend herself at all and remains completely silent in court. She also fasts and prays for several days before every court appearance. Linda has been moved often from one jail to another.