Despite the denials of the Conservative Party, this is their underlying reality.
By Glen McGregor, The Ottawa Citizen October 22, 2012
OTTAWA — An anti-abortion activist who is currently in jail in Toronto has received one of the Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee medals intended to mark “significant achievements” by Canadians.
Mary Wagner, 38, who has been repeatedly charged with mischief and violating court orders at abortion clinics, was nominated for the medal by Saskatchewan Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott.
Another Jubilee medal went to Linda Gibbons, a Toronto grandmother who has been charged numerous times for breaching the court-ordered “bubble zones” around clinics. Vellacott likened the two women to U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
To mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne, every MP was allotted 30 nominations for the award, which are supposed to be vetted by the Governor General’s Chancellery of Honours before they are handed out.
The Rideau Hall press office said Monday it was unable to comment on whether the two nominations had been reviewed before the medals were handed out, or if there was any prohibition against giving medals to convicted criminals or people currently incarcerated.
Wagner is being held at a correctional facility for women in Milton, Ont., pending her next court appearance on charges of violating the terms of her probation. She was arrested at a Toronto abortion clinic in August and is awaiting trial.
Wagner was previously convicted of mischief and two counts of breaching probation for entering the Bloor Street West Village Women’s Clinic in November 2011 and approaching patients in the waiting room. At the time, she was on probation for a previous mischief charge and had been prohibited from coming within 200 metres of the clinic or contacting its staff.
She was sentenced to six months in jail — a penalty later reduced on appeal to time served of 88 days — and three years’ probation.
Gibbons has been repeatedly charged for violating a judicial order intended to protect women visiting clinics from harassment. The order prohibits counselling against an abortion within a 150 metres of a clinic.
In her long career as an anti-abortion activist, Gibbons has spent more than eight years in jail for breaching injunctions or other court orders. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected a challenge of criminal charges against her.
LifeSiteNews, an anti-abortion website, said Vellacott added notations to the certificates accompanying the two women’s medals that noted “Your faithful undying battle for justice for pre-born children.”
He told the website that the women were “using civil disobedience to further a just cause” and compared them to King.
Vellacott did not respond to a call requesting comment or an email requesting the list of people he nominated.
Leeda Crawford, who met Wagner through anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition, said the medal arrived by mail within the last two weeks. When she’s not in jail, Wagner stays at Crawford’s Toronto home. Wagner has not yet received the medal in person but may have seen photos of the trinket that Crawford emailed to her lawyer.
Vellacott contacted Wagner in advance to ask if she’d accept the medal, Crawford said.
“Mary is just trying to help people,” she said. “She’s trying to get the law changed.”
Wagner has been jailed since August because she won’t agree to bail conditions that would require her to stay away from abortion clinics, Crawford said.
She said Wagner is originally from British Columbia and was once studying to be nun before she decided to devote herself to changing abortion law.
The selection process for awarding Jubilee Medals to 60,000 Canadians has raised eyebrows before, particularly when news leaked out that Conservative party campaign manager Jenni Byrne received one.
Unlike Order of Canada recipients, which are decided by a committee, the Conservative government allowed more than 200 “partner organizations” to choose their own list nominees.
Among the partner groups are trade organizations such as the Canadian Bankers Association, union groups such as the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, and politically-active groups such as the conservative Canadian Taxpayers Federation and REAL Women of Canada, a “family values” group.
Neither the Conservative party nor the Governor General’s office would say who nominated Byrne.
Rideau Hall has said it would make the list of recipients public in February, when the program concludes, but it is unclear if the names of the nominating organizations or officials will be linked to the recipients they selected.
The Citizen sent an email Monday asking all 305 sitting MPs for a list of their nominations. Only a small percentage responded by sending lists of nominees. Most said they are still handing out the medals and don’t want to ruin the surprise for nominees.
On Saturday Ottawa Centre NDP MP Paul Dewar gave out two politically charged medals, one to outspoken defence analyst Steven Staples of the left-leaning Rideau Institute and another to former Canadian Human Rights Commission lawyer Richard Warman, who has been vilified by some conservatives for his advocacy of hate-speech prosecutions.
Dewar also used one of his nominations to recognize former Ottawa mayoralty candidate Alex Munter, now head of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.