VICTORIA, BC Sept. 10, 2012 — Mr. Justice David Franklin Tysoe, in the British Columbia Court of Appeal, today granted Cecelia von Dehn and Donald Spratt leave to appeal their convictions for breaching the Access to Abortion Services Act, also called the BC “Bubble Zone Law”.
Von Dehn and Spratt entered the zone at Everywomans Health Center at Commercial and Broadway in Vancouver at on June 19, 2009 with signs warning the public that they, too, could be arrested within this unique zone, passed under Bill 48, which prohibits any expression of opinion against abortion in the zone. Subsequently, they were careful to only pass out copies of the ‘Bubble Zone’ law itself. Mrs. von Dehn had done this on at least three previous occasions, when the police attended and informed her and the clinic that she was not in breach of the Act, and therefore was “not arrestable”.
However, on June 9, 2009, the police came and without warning arrested and charged them with “protest” and “sidewalk interference”. They were later convicted, sentenced to two years probation, and fined $1,000. Today, leave was granted the accused, on the following grounds:
1) Did the Learned Madame Justice Fisher err in law to define the actions of the accused as sidewalk interference or protest in contravention of the Access to Abortion Services Act?
2) Did the Learned Madame Justice Fisher err in law to interpret the law as strict liability?
Regarding number 2, quoting from the Leave to Appeal Application:
The Act makes it apparent that to find a conviction there would be a prerequisite intentionality necessary. The objects of the Access to Abortion Services Act are set out in the preamble “to facilitate access to abortion services. It is reasonable to conclude from this that impugned conduct must relate back to efforts to frustrate that access. Intent to dissuade a person from utilizing abortion services is a necessary condition. The accused only passed out copies of the Act itself without “intent to dissuade”. There was no conversation on abortion.
Today, Mrs. Von Dehn said, “This Leave to Appeal will allow at last a scrutiny of the wording of this 1995 legislation which was enlarged in June 2009 to label as “protest” and “sidewalk interference ” the passing out of the Legislation itself in the area in which it applies, i.e. a ‘bubble zone’. Any citizen regardless of their mind-set, known or unknown, should be free to inform the public of a law without being arrested, jailed and having to seek remedy in the courts.”
Spratt and von Dehn are now awaiting announcement of a date for their appeal to be heard. Ronald McDonald is council for Spratt and Douglas Christie, council for von Dehn.
Source: Press release from Mr. Spratt and Ms. Von Dehn.