Monday, June 6, 2011

National Post on Linda Gibbons

Serial abortion clinic protester released from jail

Ms. Gibbons walked out of jail on Friday after Ontario Court Justice Mara Beth Greene granted her lawyer’s application requesting that she be released without conditions.

It was a surprising victory for the unrepentant protester who has spent 10 of the past 17 years in jail and inspired her 89-year-old mother to write a poem about her legal travails.

Amidst the Chile mining accident in 2010, her mother wrote: “It’s easier to get miners out of a hole than to get Linda out of a gaol.”

... Over the past two decades Ms. Gibbons has been arrested repeatedly for breaching a court injunction forbidding her from protesting outside several downtown Toronto abortion clinics. Each time she could have walked free on bail she refused to sign an order agreeing to obey the injunction, calling her decision a “principled” stand against compromising her beliefs based on legal restrictions.

“For me to sign off is to say that I will compromise my commitment to the unborn when it comes to legal restrictions,” she said. “I’m not ready to toy with my commitment to pro-life. It would almost be like me telling the unborn, ‘Sorry, I can’t defend you this time.’”

... Her most recent stint behind bars goes back to January 2009. Ms. Gibbons says the last 28 months were long, but that she compartmentalized her own problems to focus on counselling fellow inmates.

“I’m either counselling the women on their addictions, or I’m counselling some woman not to have an abortion, sharing the faith with them or giving them some encouragement to get through the day,” she says. “When you’re in there, you’re not saying, ‘I wish I wasn’t here.’ You’re just saying, ‘What do I do here?’”

... Since Aug. 30, 1994, when a civil court placed a temporary injunction around several abortion clinics in downtown Toronto at the request of the provincial Attorney-General, Ms. Gibbons has been arrested roughly 20 times for various offences under the Criminal Code.

Mr. Santoro has argued that the case should never have been prosecuted criminally but should have been sent back to civil court. The civil court should have also decided whether to make the injunction permanent or quash it, he said.

... This past winter, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear Ms. Gibbons’ case. Mr. Santoro will argue a heavy-handed Crown used the Criminal Code to punish Ms. Gibbons beyond the severity of her offences.

“They have used the criminal process as a strategy to avoid an inquest on the civil side,” Mr. Santoro said in February.

There was never any indication that Ms. Gibbons committed any violence or ever physically harassed anyone. She says the injunction muzzles legitimate pro-life free speech, and will return to her familiar posts outside abortion clinics regardless of the injunction.

“I have really said in my mind that as long as the injunctions exist and God gives me the ability to stand on my feet, that I will continue to challenge these injunctions as long as they exist.”

I have been keeping up a correspondence with Linda for over two years now, since initially sending her a Christmas card in 2009. I was surprised to receive back a long letter and our correspondence began. This is a case of someone who disobeys the law because that law is unjust. Here in Canada, we have our own case of civil disobedience, but it is kept so quiet and away from public view that very few even know about Linda Gibbons. But history will prove her right, just as it did Alexander Solzhenitsyn. As just as with Solzhenitsyn, those who are brave enough to be disobedient in the case of injustice, will suffer greatly.

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