The Calgary Airport Authority has won a temporary injunction against the pro-life Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, claiming its three visits with abortion victim imagery between 2011 and 2013 cost the airport $500,000.
The authority is reportedly suing CCBR for that amount, though its lawyer refused to confirm this. The lawsuit is reported in the Digest of Municipal and Planning Law, and The University of Calgary Faculty of Law Blog on Developments in Alberta Law.
The Calgary-based pro-life group has already won several similar access cases, mostly against universities across Canada. Last year it was acquitted of criminal trespass charges brought by the Crown for its protests at the Calgary Airport.
“We have a duty to speak up on behalf of victims, these unborn children, who cannot speak for themselves,” CCBR founding director Stephanie Gray told LifeSiteNews to justify the group’s tactics, controversial even among pro-lifers. These include displaying three-ft. by four-ft. photographs of aborted babies on university campuses and downtown sidewalks, showing much bigger signs on the sides of vans, and distributing postcard-sized pictures in mailboxes throughout federal ridings held by pro-abortion Members of Parliament.
The Calgary Airport Authority issued a statement explaining the lawsuit that said, in part, “The Airport Authority sought an injunction, as the activities were disruptive to airport operations and we received numerous complaints from passengers.”
“We have a duty to speak up on behalf of victims, these unborn children, who cannot speak for themselves.”
But the CCBR, in its written submission on the injunction, filed last year, noted that in the trespass trial CAA operations manager Peter Lawn could supply no written complaints or identify anyone who had been offended by the CCBR’s signs except airport staff.
On the CCBR’s first visit in 2011, the airport did nothing, but on two subsequent occasions its staff asked protesters to move to a less busy area, which they did.
The authority’s lawyer Peter Hayvren refused to talk to LifeSiteNews, lest he be “rude” to the caller.
The Airport’s injunction argued that Judge Allan Fradsham erred in his acquittal on the trespass charges when he ruled that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applied there. He dismissed the CAA’s argument that the airport was private property. It was owned and regulated by the federal government, and as much a public place as streets and sidewalks.
Fradsham based his ruling on a Supreme Court of Canada decision in 1991 in the nearly-identical Committee for the Commonwealth of Canada v. Canada case.
The injunction also argued that the protesters, if allowed to return, could do irreparable injury to the airport before the latter’s lawsuit could come to trial.
In Commonwealth, the Supreme Court distinguished between public property where protesters’ freedom of speech did not apply (such as the private offices of airport officials), and its public spaces, where it did so long as it did not interfere with the airport’s function.
Gray told LifeSiteNews, “There is a view growing in the country that as soon as someone says something they don’t like, free speech should be ignored. Since someone will always be upset by what you say, if this view prevails, soon there won’t be any free speech.”
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But what if freedom of speech includes the right not to hear? After Fradjam’s decision two Calgary lawyers and a University of Calgary law student produced a paper arguing just this, and claimed one of the three Supreme Court judges in the Commonwealth case, J. L’Heureux-Dubé, agreed with them. L’Heureux did express concern for the rights of “captive viewers or listeners” to “not listen,” but she ultimately decided they did not apply to the users of large and busy airports, finding for the protesters (which the Calgary trio failed to mention).
The article claimed that CCBR’s vivid images “are designed to engender angry and extreme public opposition,” and argue, in effect, that freedom of speech must be balanced by protection from too much speech. “We all lose out if those with the largest placards, loudest megaphones or biggest demonstrations hegemonize our public space and use their Charter rights as a cudgel against the rest of us…Do your children, sitting in the back seat of your car in a traffic jam, have any choice other than to stare at…the graphic bloody placards displaying aborted foetuses?”
The article also reports, hopefully, the CAA’s $500,000-lawsuit against the CCBR.
The CCBR has always responded that it is not really the pictures that are offensive, but abortion itself, and only graphic images can convey this offensiveness adequately. Moreover, Gray told LifeSiteNews, “our goal is to change people’s minds and we do,” not to anger anyone.
She cited the recent case of a young woman pushing a baby in a stroller who encountered some CCBR sidewalk protesters. “She told us she had been planning to abort the child in the stroller until she saw our van showing an unborn child the same age as her own. She dropped her plans to abort then and there.”