UPDATE: 83 year-old priest arrested for protesting abortion has new legal issues
OTTAWA, January 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― One of the charges against pro-life witness Father Tony Van Hee, S.J. has been dropped and replaced with other charges.
Van Hee was arrested October 24 for demonstrating within the 50-meter “bubble zone” outside Ottawa’s Morgentaler abortion business. The 83-year-old Jesuit priest, who demonstrated for the right of the unborn to life on Parliament Hill for almost 30 years, was wearing a sandwich board, one side reading “The primacy of freedom of speech, the cornerstone of civilization” and the other “Without free speech, the state is a corpse.” His arrest occurred on the fifth day of his vigil.
Van Hee sat facing the direction of Parliament.
According to Deborah Gyapong of the Canadian Catholic Press, police initially charged Van Hee with intimidation under the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act. The law reads in part:
“While in an access zone established under section 6 for a clinic or facility, no person shall ... for the purpose of dissuading a person from accessing abortion services ... intimidate or attempt to intimidate the person.”
Now that charge has been replaced by charges relating to informing people within the bubble zone of issues pertaining to “abortion services” and to “performing an act of disapproval concerning issues related to abortion services by any means.”
Ottawa pro-life blogger Patricia Maloney stated that it was clear why the initial charge was dropped.
“So why did they drop the charges of intimidation?” she asked rhetorically.
“Because clearly Father Tony wasn't intimidating anyone,” she answered.
“He was sitting in complete silence, not speaking with any members of the public, with a sign about free speech, looking towards Parliament Hill. How is that ‘intimidating?’”
She said the new charges were “similarly ridiculous.”
Van Hee’s lawyer, Albertos Polizogopoulos, stated in November that Van Hee would plead not guilty and challenge the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act on the ground that it violates the freedom of expression protected by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Polizogopoulos informed the Attorney General of Ontario that Van Hee had not spoken to anyone in the “exclusion zone” before his arrest and “never mentioned or referred to abortion services or related issues.”
According to Maloney, Van Hee is prepared to fight a long battle.
“Fr. Tony has every intention of taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary,” she wrote. “He believes he is doing God's work in standing up against abortion. He's totally convinced of this.”
She reported that Van Hee’s next court appearance will be January 24.
According to Gyapong, Van Hee returned to demonstrate for the freedom of speech on the edge of the bubble zone after a two-week Christmas break.