VANCOUVER, April 30, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The appeal by two prominent British Columbia pro-life activists of their 2011 convictions for violating the province’s infamous abortion business “bubble zone” law, was dismissed April 25th by judges of the BC Court of Appeal.
In the decision, Justice John E. Hall, writing also for Justices Daphne M. Smith and David Franklin Tysoe, dismissed the defendants’ claim that they were simply handing out copies of the bubble zone legislation and warning passersby that they could be arrested in the zone, and not expressly protesting abortion.
Don Spratt and Cecilia von Dehn were arrested June 19, 2009 for standing inside the bubble zone outside the Everywoman’s abortion business on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. While in the zone, they passed out copies of BC’s Access to Abortion Services Act (the “bubble zone” law) while wearing sandwich-board signs that identified the zone. The signs read: “Warning! You Are In A Bubble-Zone. You can be arrested under Bill 48” and “Be informed. Read Bill 48.”
The pro-lifers were arrested by officers with the Vancouver Police Department, jailed, and charged with “protesting in an abortion services access zone” and “engaging in sidewalk interference.” Von Dehn had done the same thing on three other occasions during the month without being charged.
Earlier in 2009 and in 2008 the pro-lifers entered the bubble zone with the same signage and passed out the same Access to Abortion Services Act legislation to the public. On each occasion Vancouver Police attended and assured them that there was no breech of the Act by informing the public of the legislation.
In June 2011 the pair were found guilty in provincial court. Spratt was fined $1,000 and sentenced to two years probation and von Dehn was sentenced to two years probation.
Their appeal of the conviction to the British Columbia Supreme Court was unsuccessful when Justice Barbara Fisher upheld the lower court ruling.
They then took their case to the BC Court of Appeal.
In the Appeals Court ruling handed down last week, Justice Hall wrote that in his opinion, the pro-lifers’ presence and activity in the bubble zone constituted a protest as defined by the Access to Abortion Services Act. The Act prohibits “any act of disapproval or attempted act of disapproval, with respect to issues related to abortion services.” The justice thus rejected their claim that they were engaged "only in the dissemination of neutral information about the legislation and were not expressing or attempting to express disapproval with respect to issues relating to abortion services."
“A certain amount of realism is requisite in assessing these matters,” wrote Justice Hall. "The reference to possible arrest and the tape on the mouth of one of the appellants can only lead me to the conclusion that the appellants were then and there objecting to the terms of the Act. I consider that such activity connotes protest concerning ‘issues related to abortion services’."
“Given the signage carried and the appearance of Mr. Spratt with his mouth taped, it is entirely to be expected that there would be some interference with persons traversing the sidewalk at that location,” he added.
“To suggest that the appellants were simply seeking to disseminate neutral information to the public is not in accord with the factual circumstances of what was happening at that time at that location,” Justice Hall stated. “This was a clear infringement of the terms of the legislation because the protest and sidewalk interference were occurring while the appellants were situate in the access zone.”
“The location is what makes their conduct impermissible,” said the judge, and concluded that he "would not accede to any of the arguments advanced by the appellants on the issues on which they were granted leave to appeal."
Don Spratt told LifeSiteNews that the ruling “is another indicator that free speech is being destroyed in Canada.”
"It's reminiscent of the 1850s in the United States when you couldn't win a case against slavery in the southern courts. The court system, biased in defense of evil, did all it could to defend the indefensible human rights abuse of their day,” he said. "Now in Canada, equal justice is dying along with free speech; and they are both dying because of the abortion issue.”
"There's no voice allowed for the unborn in Parliament, no voice for them allowed in the courts, no voice allowed even on the streets,” he continued. “Now you can't even inform the public that there is such a place as a bubble zone where you can get arrested for saying the wrong thing. Sure we have free speech in Canada—but only as long as it isn’t politically incorrect speech, spoken on the public streets or in the public square; and especially not in a ‘bubble zone’ around a government-protected, tax-funded child killing facility!"
Spratt told LifeSiteNews that a decision to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada has not yet been made, but that help to defray the costs incurred in this case so far would be greatly appreciated.
"Although my lawyer, Ron McDonald, is once again (God bless him!) graciously representing me pro bono, I have an obligation to cover his travel and any court costs associated with my case. Therefore, I would greatly appreciate your financial help to defray expenses," Spratt said.
Donations for both Spratt and Von Dehn can be made online at http://donspratt.org or sent to Don Spratt, 4705 W. 6th Ave., Vancouver, BC V6T 1C4.
Cheques, payable to Ron McDonald, Q.C. and designated “Don Spratt Legal Fund” can also be sent to: Ron McDonald Law Office, 243 - 12B Street North, Lethbridge, AB T1H 2K8.
The BC Appeals Court ruling is available here.