Alberta judge adds to bubble-zone restrictions
Calgary pro-lifer says prohibition of words ‘killing' and ‘murder'
may lead to courthouse protests
By Mike Mastromatteo
Pro-life supporters in Alberta have expressed concern that the court system may be turning to libel laws to further restrict right-to-life activity near abortion clinics. In June, Judge Blair Mason of the Alberta court ruled that pro-life signs carried by long-time activist Michael O'Malley of Calgary are libelous to abortion providers.
O'Malley has long maintained a pro-life witness at the Kensington abortion clinic in Calgary. His signs contained such words as "murder" and "killing," which the court ruled constitute an infringement of the normal operation of the abortion trade. A "temporary" court injunction, established in 1991, limits pro-life activity at the Kensington abortuary and at Henry Morgentaler's frachise in Edmonton.
The ruling on pro-life signs stems from O'Malley's arrest April 18 for violating the injunction against pro-life witnessing in Alberta. He was acquitted of the charge May 5, but the court has since ruled that pro-life signs carrying words such as "murder" and "killing" in effect libel abortion providers. "You are free to hold your opinion," Judge Mason said in his ruling, "but you can't express it in such a way as to harm a legitimate business."
O'Malley is no stranger to controversy around the Kensington Clinic. He has been arrested several times since the injunction was imposed. He expressed some concern that the latest restriction against certain words in pro-life material is a further restriction of right-to-life witnessing.
"It seems using the law of libel to censor pro-life signs is another way the abortion system now wants to control and dictate what pro-life opinion is and how it is expressed," O'Malley said in a statement obtained by The Interim.
Predictably, Celia Posyniak, executive director of the Kensington abortuary, has defended the injunction and the censoring of pro-life signs. In a letter to the Calgary Herald newspaper, Posyniak said the injunction allows women to enter the clinic "without being forced to encounter a gauntlet of people who would have us all believe that they are 'praying' or 'counselling' when in fact they wish to intimidate and disrupt."
Joanne Hatton, president of Alberta Pro-Life in Edmonton, said that government attempts across Canada to protect abortion clinics from protest are merely ways of avoiding the truth about abortion. "Whether it's a law, as in B.C., or a temporary injunction that goes on year after year, as in Alberta and Ontario, they are all attempts to suppress free speech and continue the lies that surround abortion. Clinics, doctors and lawmakers do not want the public to be reminded that babies are being killed."
O'Malley echoed Hatton's views, suggesting that the court system is more concerned with the graphic wording and images on posters and signs than it is about the real violence going on inside abortion clinics. He suggested that the increasingly restrictive terms of the injunction could force pro-lifers to take their protests to provincial courthouses.
"If the courts won't allow pro-life people to protest at the abortion clinic, than the courthouse is the next logical place to exercise our rights of freedom of belief, expression and peaceful assembly," O'Malley said.
Patty Nixon, executive director of Alberta Pro-Life in Edmonton, told The Interim that O'Malley's action helps keep the injunction in the public spotlight. "We don't have a problem with people going out and testing the injunction," Nixon said. "And it appears now that the injunction is being applied to the wording that appears on people's signs."