Alliance Before Appeal Court in Abortion Bubble Zone Case
The Canadian Religious Freedom Alliance (CRFA), comprised of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), the Catholic Civil Rights League and the Christian Legal Fellowship, made presentation to the British Columbia Court of Appeal yesterday in the case of R v Spratt.
The case concerns a constitutional challenge to the Access to Abortion Services Act, which prohibits “sidewalk interference” and “protest” in a specified access zone around abortion clinics. Donald David Spratt protested in one of these bubble zones by carrying a nine-foot cross with a sign saying “You Shall Not Murder” and spoke about God’s forgiveness and repentance for sins with two clinic employees.
Justice Howard, of the B.C. Provincial Court ruled that Spratt engaged in “sidewalk interference.” She decided that because the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in the R. v. Lewis case that the law is constitutional, she was bound by this decision and could not find the law unconstitutional. The Lewis decision had been appealed but the appeal was abandoned when Lewis died.
The CRFA argued that the definitions of “protest” and “sidewalk interference” are overly broad and infringe freedom of expression as guaranteed in section 2b of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While the CRFA agrees that besetting, intimidation, physical interference, graphic recording, threatening and harassment are appropriately prohibited by other provisions of the Act, it argues that prohibiting peaceful leafleting and innocuous protest should not be prohibited.
“Those who feel compelled by their religious beliefs to ensure that women understand the decision they are making will affect them and leave a void in the next generation should not be made into criminals for sharing those beliefs in a respectful manner”, said Don Hutchinson, the EFC’s general legal counsel. Hutchinson added, “Serious concerns arise when government gives itself the unfettered authority to restrict the freedom of opinion and expression of its citizens. Restriction in one area of public debate and expression may quickly lead to restriction in other areas.”
The EFC’s President Bruce J. Clemenger said, “Freedom of expression is one of our most cherished human rights. The government must show a compelling reason if it is going to be restricted.”
The appeal was heard by Justices Rowles, Ryan and Low. The Court has not indicated when its decision will be released.
The factum is available at www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/Page.aspx?&pid=734&nccsm=21&__nccsq=spratt&__nccspID=216.
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