BC pro-life activists found guilty of violating ‘bubble zone’
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, June 22, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Two prominent pro-life activists were convicted of violating BC’s infamous “bubble zone” law in provincial court Monday.
Don Spratt was fined $1,000 and sentenced to two years’ probation and Cecilia (Sissy) von Dehn was sentenced to two years’ probation. Both intend to appeal their convictions.
The pair were arrested June 19, 2009 for standing inside the “bubble zone” outside the Everywoman’s Health Center abortion mill on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, BC. Spratt and von Dehn were passing out copies of BC’s Access to Abortion Services Act (the ‘bubble zone’ law) while wearing sandwich-board signs that identified the zone, “Warning! You can be arrested under Bill 48” and “Be informed. Read Bill 48.”
They 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.
“Interesting interpretation that one is arrested, jailed, convicted for ‘protest’ for passing out to the public copies of a Law in BC which applies to a specific area,” Sissy von Dehn, a sixty-year old grandmother and long-time prolife activist, told LifeSiteNews. “If the abortion clinic workers passed out the same legislation in the same ‘bubble-zone’ would they be arrested for ‘protest’?”
Prior to their arrest, Spratt had learned that the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear his appeal of an earlier conviction under the same law; he had been arrested for carrying a cross made of 2x4s and a small sign reading “you shall not kill” into the bubble zone.
The pro-lifers’ seven-day trial in the provincial courts, ending March 2011, was before Judge J Watchuk, who has since been raised to the BC Supreme Court. Mr. Doug Christie represented both von Dehn and Spratt in court, as Spratt’s lawyer, Mr. Ron McDonald was unable to be present.
Speaking for both accused, defence counsel Christie said the conviction would be appealed on four grounds.
Christie contested the courts ruling that the Access to Abortion Services Act (AASA) was a “strict liability” statute, which means that proving intent is not necessary for a conviction. “They were convicted because of who they are – prominent pro-life activists,” said Christie. “But it doesn’t matter who does the action, it’s only the action itself that the law addresses.”
Further, he stated the court did not recognize that handing out copies of the law as published by the BC government, as the pro-lifers had done, was not a crime and that officers had not arrested von Dehn on three earlier occasions, even informing her that her actions were not violating the Act.
The court also erred in not limiting the meaning of the terms “protest” and “sidewalk interference,” said Christie. No evidence was introduced at trial that anyone on the sidewalk had been impeded by the presence of Spratt and von Dehn.
Before sentencing, Spratt made a statement explaining why he felt compelled to oppose abortion in Canada. He attested to seeing, first hand, the oppression in impoverished nations around the world and stated that Canada is also going in such a direction.
“The Canadian government, like all tyrants before them, are not only committing human rights violations against the pre-born, but have moved on to deny the civil rights of anyone who dares to speak up or intervene on behalf of the downtrodden. True to the pattern of repressive governments everywhere, our constitutional protections are swept aside, and off to jail we go!” he said.
“To be arrested and jailed, simply for informing the public of the existence of a law that could send them to prison, looks and feels a lot like despotism to me!”
Spratt quoted Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, when he introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960: “I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think is right, free to oppose what I believe is wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”
“I tremble for my country, Canada, because we have allowed our governments and courts to arrogantly defy the God of our Charter, and increasingly to violate the Rule of Law!” he concluded. “If abortion is not wrong, nothing is wrong; and we cannot have a right to choose to do wrong.”