MILTON, Ontario, February 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Some inmates at the prison housing pro-life prisoner of conscience Linda Gibbons are forced into cells so cold that they suffer hypothermia-like symptoms, according to Gibbons.
Women in outer cells at Milton’s Vanier Centre for Women “suffer chronic colds with symptoms of hypothermia; blue nails with red, runny noses with often subsequent illnesses from being chilled,” wrote Gibbons in a letter to Dr. Ian Hunter, a professor emeritus in the Faculty of Law at the University of Western Ontario, who related the concern in an op-ed in the National Post this week.
Gibbons, who herself had been placed in one of these rooms for two weeks, estimated the temperature would fall to below 10C at night. Despite getting four blankets instead of the usual two, she says she couldn’t sleep because it was so cold.
Gibbons has spent eight of the last 16 years in prison since the Ontario government obtained a temporary court injunction in 1994 banning pro-life witnessing and counseling within a specified “bubble zone” around three Toronto abortion facilities. She’s committed to praying peacefully outside these facilities, counseling women seeking abortions, and occasionally holding a sign that says: “Why, Mom, when I have so much love to give?”
Imprisoned continuously since January 20, 2009, when she was arrested outside the downtown Toronto “Scott Clinic,” Gibbons refuses to agree to a bail condition that demands she stay away from the facilities.
“Free speech in Canada is not so robust as to withstand her conduct,” writes Dr. Hunter. “She has become Canada’s most obdurate prisoner of conscience, spending more time behind bars than most convicted robbers or rapists.”
The retired law professor says she is in many ways an “exceptional criminal.” “Often she goes to court without a lawyer. She says nothing in her own defence,” he explains. “She refuses to acknowledge the jurisdiction of a court to prevent her from praying. She accepts without recrimination what, by any standard of natural law, are unjust verdicts. She makes few criticisms of her treatment in jail. She seeks no early release.”
At the same time, he notes that she has by no means been a “model prisoner.” “Admittedly, Gibbons was a pain when she asked to have a Bible in her cell. And she sometimes leads her cellmates in prayer,” he writes. “In the past, prison guards have noted how jailhouse language markedly improves in Linda’s presence. Such, I suppose, is the nefarious control that one criminal mind is capable of exerting over other inmates.”
Gibbons says she has had no success after making formal complaints about the cold to Vanier Centre superintendent Donna Keating and the provincial ombudsman. Instead a bureaucrat informed her that the rooms’ temperatures met correctional facility standards, and that they would only discuss her personal concerns and not her concern for the other inmates.
The bureaucrat also noted that inmates can request extra blankets, but Gibbons told Hunter that such requests are generally rejected because the supply is limited.
“I am confident it is not the purpose or intent of the Correctional Service of Canada to house women in rooms so cold they are prevented from sleeping,” Gibbons wrote to Hunter. But, said Hunter, “Ms. Gibbons is more charitable than I am.”
“Whatever the intention of the Correctional Service of Canada may be, there are problems that are insoluble, and there are problems where anyone but a bureaucrat can see and implement a simple solution,” he writes. “This is an example of the latter. Can we expect a prompt solution other than waiting for climate change?”
Dr. Ian Hunter’s National Post op-ed is available here.
Hon James J. Bradley, Ontario’s Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
25 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1Y6
E-mail: [email protected]
Superintendent Donna Keating
Vanier Centre for Women
655 Martin St
Milton, ON L9T 5E6
Phone: 905-876-8300 ext. 7316
Tim Hudak, Opposition Leader
The Ontario PC Party
19 Duncan Street
Toronto, ON M5H 3H1
Email: [email protected]