New Brunswick Judge Grants Permanent Injunction Against Pro-Life Protesters

On May 12, 2017, a permanent injunction was granted to the plaintiff Vitalité Health Network by Justice Reginald Legér of the Court of Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick to prevent the presence of  pro-life demonstrations on the property of the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst.[1] The permanent injunction follows from an interlocutory judgement that was previously granted to the plaintiff following an incident in September 2012 in which an ambulance was forced to come to an abrupt stop, purportedly due to the presence of pro-life protesters on the access road to the hospital’s emergency department. The defendants maintained that they had “nothing to do with the incident,” emphasizing that their “40 Days for Life” group primarily consists of senior citizens who seek to promote a pro-life message through silent prayer and vigil.[2]

Justice Legér acknowledged that the grant of a permanent injunction would infringe the defendants’ Charter right to freedom of religion, expression and assembly. However, he concluded that the plaintiff’s right to ensure “the safety of all hospital users” as well as “the good order and proper functioning of the hospital environment” ultimately took precedence over this right.[3] The court further rejected the defendants’ proposed compromise that would have seen a limited number of demonstrators allowed to protest for a set number of hours each day at a fixed location beside the hospital’s access road.

In late May, Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi promised to unveil legislation in the fall term that would create similar buffer zones around abortion clinics in Ontario, reflecting laws that have already been passed in Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia. It is not yet known how large the Ontario buffer zones will be or what the severity of the penalties will be for protesters who violate them. Newfoundland and Labrador’s new legislation creates a 40-metre buffer zone around abortion clinics, while British Columbia’s legislation creates a 50-metre zone around abortion clinics and a 160-metre zone around the homes of abortion providers.

[1] Regional Health Authority A (Vitalité Health Network) v Godin, 2017 NBQB 93

[2] Ibid at para 74.

[3] Ibid at para 53.