Question: What happens if you pass out copies of legislation in front of an abortion mill?
Answer #1: The abortion mill goes cop-shopping. If at first they don’t find an officer who will arrest you, they’ll try, try again—and again, and yet again—until they do.
Answer# 2: When the abortion mill finally finds a compliant cop, the courts will put your life on hold for more than two years while they search for a way to pretend that you did something you actually did not do.
Those lessons were learned last week by pro-lifers Don Spratt and Cissy von Dehn, arrested June 19, 2009 for doing something Vancouver Police had twice told Mrs. von Dehn was not against the law.
On that day in June two years ago, Spratt and von Dehn were in a protected Bubble Zone in front of the mis-named “Everywoman’s Health Clinic” at Commercial Drive and Broadway in Vancouver, where—without making any comment—they gave a copy of the Harcourt NDP government’s 1996 Access to Abortion Facilities Act to anyone who wanted one. Both were wearing signs warning passers-by that they could be arrested if they uttered the wrong kind of statements within the “Bubble Zone” that limits freedom of speech outside BC abortion mills.
They were not criticizing the abortion mill in whose zone they stood; they were not even criticizing the legislation that prohibits such criticism. They merely passed out copies of the law, with a map showing the boundary of the speech-limiting zone. Without that information, they told the court, passers-by might inadvertently violate the law.
Three times before their arrest, the abortion mill had called police because Mrs. von Dehn was passing out copies of the Act within the zone; and all three times the police had told her—and the management of the abortion mill—that what she was doing did not violate the Act. On one occasion, the court was told, a policeman e-mailed the legal counsel of the Vancouver Police, asking what he should do. The VPD lawyer’s answer was not given to the court—it is “privileged communication between lawyer and client”—but one might infer the advice he received from what he did: nothing.
The case had gone through three days of expensive hearings last November, and a further three days of hearings this month. The court has put off a decision until June 20, 2011—two years and a day from the date of the alleged “offense”.
In court last Friday, Crown Counsel Dasein Neering offered her alarming summation of the Crown’s case: “If the defendants are not found guilty,” she warned, “tomorrow the 50-metre zone will be full of protesters,” she warned.
Mrs. von Dehn’s attorney, Doug Christie, brushed aside that warning: “For years,” he pointed out, “the existing law has kept the zone peaceful. If the law needs to be changed, that’s the responsibility of the legislature, not the courts. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that constitutionally, the courts must not legislate from the bench.”
The Access to Abortion Facilities Act prohibits acts of protest about abortion, or sidewalk interference, within 50 metres of an abortion facility or abortionist’s home or office; but it does not prohibit expressing objections to the Act itself.
Crown Counsel Neering asked the court to infer that the defendants real intention—their “thought crime”—was to object to the Act itself because it is known that they diapprove of abortion.
However, Spratt and von Dehn were not even protesting the Act; they were only informing passers-by that certain ideas cannot legally be expressed within the 50-metre “Bubble Zone”. They did not even specify what those forbidden ideas are; they only handed out copies of the Act, so that citizens might read for themselves what thoughts may not be expressed within the zone.
Now they face a further wait of three months before they learn their fate.
Not surprisingly, during the two years he has had to wait to find out if distributing copies of a law violates that law—a precept which cannot be found within any Canadian legislation—Spratt has been unable to find an employer willing to risk hiring a man whom the Crown wants to throw into jail for months or even years.
If you tally the salaries and support costs of the judge, court clerk, Crown counsel, several sheriffs and half-a-dozen police witnesses, then throw in the capital and operating costs of the courtroom, taxpayers have probably spent more than a million dollars on this farcical “trial”; it has probably cost the defendants (and/or their lawyers, if they are in any measure acting pro bono) a further $100,000 or more.
And for what?
If they are convicted, Orwellian “thought-crime” will have gained a significant precedent in Canadian criminal law.
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