Constitutional lawyer to represent 83-year-old priest charged for praying too close to abortion mill
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OTTAWA, Ontario, October 30, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A lawyer who is an expert in constitutional law is taking up the case of an elderly Roman Catholic priest charged under Ontario's abortion mill "bubble zone" law.
Under Ontario's new "bubble zone" law, the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act (Bill 163), Father Tony Van Hee has been charged with intimidating or attempting to intimidate people going to the Morgentaler abortion center in downtown Ottawa. He is scheduled to appear in court November 16.
The 83-year-old priest was arrested and charged last Wednesday while holding up signs about free speech across the street from abortuary. One of those signs, which the priest held in front of him, read: "The Primacy Of Free Speech: Cornerstone Of Western Civilization." The other, which was on his back, read: "Without Free Speech The State Is A Corpse."
Photographs taken by a witness show the priest was not even looking at the abortion mill.
Albertos Polizogopoulos, a partner in the Ottawa-based firm of Vincent Dagenais Gibson, is representing Fr. Van Hee. Polizogopoulos is the lawyer who successfully defended in superior court the Christian Heritage Party's right earlier this year to put ads against allowing men to enter women's toilets on bus shelters in Hamilton.
Those ads showed a picture of a man standing in front of a women's washroom and carried the message, "Competing Human Rights … Where is the Justice?" The ads also carried the Christian Heritage Party (CHP) of Canada's name, website, address, and phone number.
The City of Hamilton pulled the ads after deeming them "transphobic." But Polizogopoulos convinced a panel of three superior court justices the CHP had a right to put up those ads – even though others might find them offensive – in 2016 because they are political speech.
Although the details of the defense in Fr. Van Hee's case are not yet available, the lawyer told LifeSiteNews Tuesday it will be based on the elderly priest's constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of speech.
"We’re still considering his defense, but we will be arguing that the legislation violates his freedom of expression," said Polizogopoulos. "I've only just been retained."
A first-time offense under that law can carry a fine of up to $5,000 and six months in jail.
"I will fight it on my own and if they fine me, I will not pay it and go to jail," said Fr. Van Hee in an interview with LifeSiteNews last week, prior to retaining the services of his lawyer. "If they jail me, I will fast."
He asked all pro-lifers to pray for him.
A staunch pro-life advocate, Fr. Van Hee has been protesting abortion on Parliament Hill for 28 years. In an interview, he said he considers the "bubble zone" law to be so unjust as to be worth jail time.
"It's wrong and it has to be challenged and that's why I'm willing to go to court," he said.
He is urging all Canadians to inform themselves as to just how badly freedom of speech has been damaged in their country.
"It's really being eroded and Bill 163 is an egregious example of it," he said.
No evidence of pro-lifers being violent outside Morgentaler abortion center
Donald Andre Bruneau, a pro-lifer who has protested abortion with Fr. Tony for years, told LifeSiteNews he witnessed police officers arriving, talking to Fr. Van Hee, taking his signs, and issuing the summons to appear before the court. Bruneau captured the incident on video.
On his Twitter feed, Bruneau says the priest was wrongly charged. He has photos of Fr. Tony sitting on a bicycle seat on a poll, carrying his signs.
"He was within the bubble zone but he had nothing on him that was advocating against abortion," said Bruneau.
Passed almost exactly a year ago, Ontario's "bubble zone" law makes pro-life expression outside abortion facilities illegal even though there has been no evidence to back up claims of violence by pro-lifers at these clinics.
Ottawa mayor Jim Watson asked for the law at the behest of the abortuary's staff. They alleged pro-lifers were harassing and intimidating women as they approached the abortion center.
Pro-life blogger Patricia Maloney debunked that.
She filed a freedom of information request for a record of Ottawa police attendance at the Morgentaler abortion center from January 2014 to June 2017 and discovered the facility’s claims of alleged pro-life violence were largely unfounded.
“There were a total of 64 police reports for this period, most of which most were false alarms, cancelled calls, administrative issues, and other minor issues,” Maloney wrote on her blog last year.
“In this three-year, five-month period, there were exactly two level 1 assaults (minor injury or no injury). It is unknown if the assaults were perpetrated against pro-life or against pro-choice people.”