Linda Gibbons has been arrested about 20 times for protesting outside Toronto abortion clinics since an injunction was put in place in 1994. Photo by Sheila Dabu Nonato

Supreme Court reserves decision on Linda Gibbons' pro-life activism

  • December 16, 2011

OTTAWA - Lawyers for oft-arrested pro-life demonstrator Linda Gibbons argued before the Supreme Court of Canada Dec. 14 that using the criminal courts to stop her protests is like using a butcher’s knife where a scalpel would be more appropriate.

Attorney Daniel Santoro told the land's highest court that criminal courts should not be used to enforce an injunction made by a civil court, an injunction that has been used to jail Gibbons repeatedly. Instead, violations of civil injunctions or orders made by family courts or human rights tribunals should go back to the civil courts for enforcement, where there are a wider variety of remedies, including the lifting of the injunction.

But a lawyer representing Ontario’s Attorney General countered that enforcement of the 17-year-old injunction was necessary to ensure respect for the rule of law.

The court has reserved judgment and no timeline for a decision was given.

The 63-year-old grandmother has been arrested about 20 times for protesting outside Toronto abortion clinics since the injunction was put in place in 1994 and has spent more than nine years in jail for violating the temporary injunction. It was designed to keep anti-abortion protesters in Toronto 150 metres away from abortion facilities. Judges have kept Gibbons in prison after her arrests because of her steadfast refusal to abide by orders to cease and desist her protests. 

It didn't take long after the hearing for Gibbons to resume her protests. She set up shop outside a Toronto abortion clinic Dec. 16, where she was accosted by one of the facility's workers before being arrested once again by Toronto police.

Gibbons said she does not believe the Crown has “an absolute right to throw an injunction” against groups it disagrees with. She said the Crown is overreaching and doing “violence in a democracy where people have differing views.”

“A country that does not protect its unborn is no longer a civilized or a free country,” she told CCN outside the court. This injunction, she said, “is being used as a political instrument to silence us.”

Gibbons’ lawyers said in an interview the abortion issue was only a backdrop to the case which focused on highly technical arguments about whether the violation of this injunction should have gone to a criminal court. They are arguing to have her conviction quashed but if Gibbons wins, the injunction, which was part of a civil lawsuit launched by Bob Rae’s NDP government, will still stand unless the original defendants seek to have it quashed themselves.

She said the abortion debate needs to be reopened.

“I see all these Occupy people. They’re in the park, they’re staying there and whatever and the public is very tolerant of them,” she said. “It’s about money and we all have money grievances.”

She argued abortion is “making Canada suffer,” causing demographic suicide and “destroying a population base that would be boosting our economy, three million missing babies who would be earning money and paying taxes.”

Gibbons, who said she is okay as long as she has her Bible and her glasses with her, said her passion for the rights of the unborn goes back to the biblical teaching that God is the author of life and that all of us spent nine months in a mother’s womb.

“Why wouldn’t we speak up for them when they are being killed,” she said. “I would want someone to speak up for me if I was being killed.”

She noted the irony of her being considered an outlaw for speaking up to save unborn children, but the killing of those children is within the law.

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