Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Unsung Heroes - Linda Gibbons

It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who said that "An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law."

If that is indeed the case, then Linda Gibbons has demonstrated that she has no peers in Canada. This 63 year old great-grandmother will soon have spent more time behind bars than Karla Homolka and many other convicted murderers. Her crime? Silently praying within sixty feet of a Morgantaler abortion clinic in Toronto. She actually at times has had the nerve to hold a sign asking "Why Mom, when I have so much life to give?" For this she is treated like a common criminal.

Linda is now behind bars awaiting her appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada. Over the past 17 years, she's spent almost 9 years in a prison cell, and has been incarcerated for the last 26 months. She could be released today if she would agree not to protest near the clinics. She refuses to agree to these conditions on principle, believing that the demand is a contravention of her freedom of expression.

So while in prison Linda provides counsel to the younger women she calls "her girls," trying to help them break out of patterns of drug abuse and life on the streets. She is proud of the fact that she has saved three babies from abortion while on the inside. Speaking to an interviewer she said: “Wherever I am, I am free to do God’s work. I can be on the outside or in the inside. It doesn’t matter. I don’t feel burdened by what I’m doing.” (For the full article go here.)

It seems that our legal system really doesn't know what to do with Linda precisely because she has the courage of her convictions. The supposed issue at hand is a "temporary injunction" which was put in place in 1994. Ummm, at what point does that become permanent? Our judicial system doesn't seem to want that issue before the courts so they are charging her with everything except contravening that injunction. She's been charged with "obstructing a peace officer," and "disobeying a court order." These charges allow the courts to not deal with the question of the merits of the temporary injunction. So Linda stays.

Why is she so passionate? Others have taken the same stand as she has, yet took the opportunity for release when offered. “I didn’t have the courage to break the injunction,” says retired high school teacher John Bulsza, of London, Ont., who was named in the original injunction in August 1994. “Everyone of us should have protested with her and this case would be history. She’s our Gandhi and we’re letting her take the fall for the rest of us.”
Linda herself had an abortion when she was a young woman and doesn't want anyone to have to deal with that. She also was born with a cleft palate and underwent successful surgery as a child. She wonders, with the advanced pre-natal testing as advanced as it is today if she might not have been aborted if born later. So she stands in defense of the unborn at every opportunity. She doesn't fight, she doesn't yell. She doesn't threaten, harass or argue. She simply bears silent witness to what she feels is the genocide of millions of Canadian babies. Her lawyer believes that she is a "prisoner of conscience." Others are not so impressed, believing that Linda is getting her just desserts for thumbing her nose at the law.

When thinking of Linda's plight, I can't help but draw comparisons to Martin Luther King, Jr., with whose quote I opened this piece. Some may not think the comparison appropriate, but that would depend on your view of the rights of the unborn, I suppose. When King was imprisoned, the rights of blacks weren't recognized by everyone either. He stood against what he felt were unjust laws, willingly paying the price for finding himself on the wrong side of, what he considered to be, unjust laws. One of the obvious differences is that Linda is not a dynamic leader with a national profile like King was. She does not have the speaking or writing ability which allowed him to clearly articulate his position. Linda quietly lives out her beliefs, for her it seems there is no other option.

At the time of this writing, the case has been adjourned to April 12. It will be interesting to see if the top court of our land is comfortable allowing a 63 year old great-grandmother to be held indefinitely behind bars for breaking a temporary injunction put in place way back when Bob Rae's NDP ran Ontario. One thing can be said for Linda Gibbons, she is one person who has the courage of her convictions.

Related Articles:
Unsung Heroes - Ralph Edmund
Unsung Heroes - Sandra Tineo
The "A" Word
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