It was certainly an act of conscience when an opponent of abortion, Mary Wagner, tried to force her way into a Toronto clinic’s inner rooms, got into a physical struggle with a woman as she attempted to do so, and refused to leave when asked to do so by a police officer.
But it was also a crime – mischief – and a violation of her terms of probation that she not be within 200 metres of this particular clinic. And she had a criminal record for committing similar acts of mischief – twice in Vancouver in 2000 and 2001, and twice in Toronto in 2010 and 2011.
Strange, then, that the Conservative government, known for its tough approach to law and order, is silent when a Saskatchewan backbencher, Maurice Vellacott, recommended Ms. Wagner, and another woman, Linda Gibbons, who has spent years in jail for her activism, for Diamond Jubilee medals, given to mark the 60th year of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.
The government can’t have it both ways. If it opposes lawbreaking, it should do so across the board.
But silence has been the response from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government. Mr. Harper has always trodden carefully on this fraught issue – careful not to alienate voters by reopening the debate, but wishing to mollify the anti-abortion part of his base. From his standpoint, things could be worse. The Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has an uproar on his hands because Richard Mourdock, a Republican senatorial candidate in Indiana, made comments about a pregnancy produced by a rape being “God’s will.” Conscience that interferes in the right to choose can become zealotry, or even a dangerous fundamentalism. And leaders need to stand up against it.
Where would this country be if others felt their conscience required them to burst in on someone? One man disagrees with the teaching of evolution, another with sex education, a third with a particular interpretation of the War of 1812, and all of them block the doors to the classroom. Anarchy results. That is why this country works out its problems through peaceful discussion, and why rewarding lawbreakers, even those acting according to their conscience, undermines the rule of law.
Mr. Vellacott is politicizing an honour given in the name of the Crown. The government should express its displeasure, publicly.
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