Crown calls Linda Gibbons sign showing crying infant ‘disturbing, offensive, disruptive, disgusting’
TORONTO, Ontario, April 24, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A pro-life sign depicting a crying infant with the words, “Why, mom, when I have so much love to give?” is “disturbing,” “offensive,” “disruptive,” “disgusting,” “threatening” and “intimidating,” according to Canadian Assistant Crown Attorney Stefania Fericean.
Fericean made the remarks during a hearing this past Thursday, arguing that the placard held by pro-life activist Linda Gibbons outside the Toronto Morgentaler abortion site exhibited those qualities and so made Gibbons guilty of disobeying a court order and subject to a jail term.
The hearing was held at the Superior Court of Justice in downtown Toronto in front of Justice Gary Trotter. Gibbons was appealing convictions for disobeying a court order at the Morgentaler site levied by Justices William R. Wolski on March 14, 2013 and Feroza Bhabha on September 11, 2013. A third appeal, regarding a conviction by Justice Mara Beth Greene, is to be heard at the Ontario Court of Appeal.
The Morgentaler abortion centre had sought intervenor status in the current appeal hearing through Clayton Ruby’s legal firm of Ruby, Shiller, Chan and Hassan, but was denied by the Superior Court of Justice on April 15.
Fericean’s comments came in response to submissions by Gibbons’s defence counsels, Daniel Santoro and Nicolas Rouleau, that Gibbons’s conduct in walking peacefully with the sign on the sidewalk in front of the Morgentaler centre did not constitute intimidating conduct, as prohibited by the terms of a civil court injunction won by the centre.
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Fericean, however, argued conduct need not be explicitly expressive, threatening or coercive to be deemed intimidating. She pointed out that Wolski, in his lower-court ruling, found the placard held by Gibbons to be threatening and intimidating on its own, given the context.
The placard, Fericean charged, was designed to elicit “shame, horror, disgust, guilt and fear” in potential clients of the abortion centre and so was “intimidating on its face … A sign of a crying infant pleading for its life … is antithetical to rational argument.”
A skeptical Trotter said the incident involving Gibbons was not properly investigated, as clients and staff of the abortion centre were never interviewed to determine if they did, in fact, feel intimidated. “I have a hard time seeing that conduct as intimidating,” said Trotter. “There is no evidence of anyone being alarmed.”
He added that Gibbons, like anyone, is entitled to attempt to persuade people within the confines of the law and that expression need not be intellectual to be deemed legal. “Your argument is quite over the top,” he chided Fericean.
Trotter added if the abortion centre was so concerned about Gibbons’s signage, it could go to civil court and seek an order banning the display of certain placards within specified distances of the centre. Such a clause does not exist in the current injunction, enacted in 1999. As it is, Trotter said, he is not going to find the sign offensive or disgusting.
Earlier, Gibbons’s lawyer, Santoro, offered another line of appeal, arguing that because the civil court injunction was enacted with the consent of five people other than Gibbons, it was not enforceable on her as she was not named and was not a participant in the relevant legal proceedings.
He said language has to be explicit if non-parties to an action are to be bound by it, but that is not the case with the Morgentaler document. To assume otherwise would mean one person could sue another and then see the entire world bound by terms of a subsequent ruling, he said.
Fericean, in her rebuttal, emphasized the injunction also bound “John Doe, Jane Doe and persons unknown” and so Gibbons was encompassed by its terms.
Trotter reserved judgement on the appeal, with a decision likely to come in the next several weeks. No date has yet been set for the other appeal in the Greene case.
In the meantime, pro-life activists will shift their attention to the continuation of the Mary Wagner trial, scheduled to resume at the Ontario Court of Justice, 1000 Finch Avenue West, on May 13 and 14. Supporters are being urged to come out for the hearings, in which Wagner is dealing with charges of mischief and breaching probation orders. She is using the trial as a test case to challenge the current status of a human being in Canadian law as applying only to those fully born.
Expert witnesses are scheduled to be heard. Funds are still being raised to defray her legal costs through a legal defence fund. For information, see here.