VANCOUVER, BC September 14, 2007 – Judgment has been reserved in the “Bubble Zone” case concerning protest within a proscribed geographic area near abortion clinics. The Canadian Religious Freedom Alliance (Alliance), represented by legal counsel, Julie Owens, presented arguments Sept. 13 and 14 at the BC Court of Appeal in defence of freedom of speech for those protesting within the “bubble zone” around abortion clinics.
This action arose from BC resident, Donald Spratt’s, December 1998 conviction under the B.C. Access to Abortion Services Act, on charges of making a “protest” and “sidewalk interference” resulting in a 30-day sentence. He was compelled by his religious beliefs to protest the Act, viewing it as evil as abortion itself. Mr. Spratt’s “protest” consisted of carrying a nine-foot cross with a sign saying “You Shall Not Murder” and speaking about God’s forgiveness and repentance for sin.
The issue of expression of one’s religious beliefs is directly in issue, and therefore one which is of serious concern to Alliance members, which include Christian Legal Fellowship, Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) and Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
“The right to peaceful protest is fundamental in a democracy,” said CCRL President Phil Horgan. “The alliance supports the principle that any restriction on civil liberties needs to be clearly justifiable. The decision in this case will affect what forms of protest will be restricted in future.”
The Alliance argued that sections of the Access to Abortion Services Act infringe on the fundamental freedoms of protesters and people accessing abortion clinics. The Alliance contends that these infringements are not justified under sections 1, 2(1)(a) and 2(1)(b) of the Charter. As an underlying value of the Charter, the inherent dignity of the human person must be interpreted consistently for all rights protected under the Charter. The BC Access to Abortion Services Act prohibitions impact the fundamental freedoms of both those wishing to stand within the access zone of an abortion clinic for the purpose of “protest” or “sidewalk interference” as well as those who are seeking abortion services.
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 peaceful leafleting and innocuous protest should not be prohibited.
It is not known when the court will render its decision in this case.
Click here to view CLF’s Analysis & Summary of decision.
Click here to view Factum before the BCCA.
Click here to view additional background information and written legal arguments for The Canadian Religious Freedom Alliance.
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org