August 28, 2013
Regarding the Supreme Court of British Columbia judgement
GOOD NEWS. BAD NEWS.
First, we are delighted to announce – to our existing and prospective clients, community partners, and our donors – that pro-choice activist Joyce Arthur’s lawyer, and now BC Supreme Court Madam Justice Russell, have said that serious allegations in Ms. Arthur’s 2009 publication, Exposing Crisis Pregnancy Centres in British Columbia, do not apply to our charity or either of our charity’s CPCs in Vancouver and Burnaby.
Second, however, we are disappointed with the court decision dismissing our defamation claim against Joyce Arthur and members of the Pro-Choice Action Network for their publication (the “report”). Ms. Arthur succeeded in having our case dismissed without her being required to prove the truth of any of the allegations in her report concerning crisis pregnancy centres. The report remains posted on the internet.
Our Board of Directors will take some time to consider whether to appeal the decision dismissing our lawsuit.
Although our charity much prefers to spend our time helping women in crisis rather than litigating matters in the courts, we were concerned that as time passed, various publications online began footnoting the report as substantiating various allegations made against CPCs, and because the report began appearing on the first page of Google results for the search term “crisis pregnancy centre Vancouver.” Clients or agencies looking online for either of our two CPCs could easily come across the report and its allegations.
The allegations in the report are serious, including that “CPCs use graphic videos and pictures to shock and horrify young women about abortion”, that “CPCs … won’t say upfront they are religious, and will lie about being religiously-affiliated to get a woman into the centre”, that they “provide misinformation about abortion and its risks”, and CPCs “break confidentiality” (the “Allegations”).
We do not engage in any such conduct. But we were concerned that someone who googled our centres, and then stumbled upon and read the report, would believe that we did, since the title of the report appeared to focus on allegations about CPCs in BC (of which there are currently only about 15). Further, our charity’s two CPCs are listed in an appendix in the report, and referenced in a number of other ways, including our executive director by name, in the text of the report.
Thus, after communications and correspondences to Ms. Arthur went ignored, we concluded that we had no alternative but to commence a defamation lawsuit against Ms. Arthur in 2012 asking, among other things, for a court order that the report be taken down or corrected. We raised money for a legal defence fund for this purpose. No general donations were used for the legal action.
Since the law protects expressions of opinion, even by those who hold very one-sided views, and we wanted to be good stewards of our limited legal defence fund dollars, our lawsuit focused on the clearest and most serious factual inaccuracies in the report which would be the simplest to disprove – e.g. the Allegations listed three paragraphs above.
Immediately after filing a defence, Ms. Arthur’s lawyer then brought a court application that our case should be dismissed because (her lawyer asserted) the Allegations in the report of which we complained did not refer to the Vancouver CPC or Burnaby CPC, but were only part of general allegations about some practices of CPCs in North America, of which there are 4,200.
As stated in his legal argument to the court at paragraph 18 “The defendants’ position in this application is that as a matter of law the impugned passages in the report are not capable of being found to refer to the plaintiffs, and in any event, as a matter of fact the report would not lead a reasonable person who knows the plaintiffs to conclude that the passages refer to them“; and at paragraph 20 “… no reasonable reader of the report would feel able to draw any conclusions about the practices at the CPCs operated by the plaintiffs” (i.e. the Vancouver and Burnaby centres).
The Judge who heard legal argument on this matter in early April ultimately accepted those submissions, stating at paragraph 92 of her reasons for judgment, released on August 26th, that “As it is never made clear in the Report what ‘many or most’ entails with regard to CPCs across North America, it is difficult to say the ‘deceptive’ tactics reflect personally on the plaintiffs. The impugned statements do not have any specificity; the Report describes the tactics in broad generalizations.” And then her conclusion at paragraph 98, that “I conclude the alleged defamatory statements are not of and concerning the plaintiffs.”
The Judge’s conclusion – that the report’s Allegations that we challenged are directed at the 4,200 CPCS across North America, not specifically about us or CPCs in BC – comes as a shock. Although the Allegations appear in a section prefaced by the words “the following activities and strategies are common to many or most CPCs throughout North America”, that section is part of the report as a whole which:
- Is titled Exposing Crisis Pregnancy Centres in British Columbia, and which title appears typed at the top on all 65-pages of the report, including the pages where the Allegations appear.
- Describes its purpose as: “We wanted to find out what these centres were doing and saying to women in BC, and whether they were engaging in deceptive or harmful practices.”
- Lists the Vancouver and Burnaby Centres in an appendix to the report along with, and only, CPCs in BC.
- Focuses most of the content (main text and appendixes) specifically on CPCs in BC (including our own CPCs).
Also, in her grant application to Status of Women Canada for $27,400 to fund the report (which was granted), Ms. Arthur stated that one of her “Goals and Objectives” was to “Research the current situation in BC” and “Shift public awareness by alerting and educating … target audiences in BC.”
As previously stated, since the Judge agreed with Ms. Arthur’s lawyer’s claim that the Allegations of which we complained are not about our centres, or the CPCs of British Columbia, our defamation case is dismissed without Ms. Arthur being required to prove any of the allegations in her report.
The Vancouver CPC and Burnaby CPC are disappointed with the judgment. We believe that people who stumble across the report online will indeed understand the report to make the Allegations of which we sued to be about our two centres, and other centres in BC, and this will dissuade them from seeking the help they need which we can provide. We are also confident that Ms. Arthur would be unable to establish that the Vancouver or Burnaby centres engage in any of the misconduct described in the report.
What Is Next?
Our Board of Directors have until September 25 to consider whether or not to appeal the decision dismissing our lawsuit, and will not comment further on the legal issues at this time.
Notwithstanding our Board’s decision on this important matter, we will continue to do what we do best – serve our clients.
For example, Jessica (not her real name), who came to us the day she planned to commit suicide. Her husband previously beat her to cause a miscarriage. He was now coercing her to abort their second child or he would beat her again. With our help and our shelter, Jessica and her daughter are both alive.
For example, “Melody”, whose unborn child was of mixed race, so her parents demanded she abort or forever be cut off from her family. They followed through. And then there is “Heather”, seeking help for post abortion grief, referred to us by an abortion clinic. And also “Ali”, a refugee needing prenatal services and material support.
To date, our modest charity has helped over 16,000 women in crisis.
Whether or not Ms. Arthur has any evidence that a handful of the thousands of crisis pregnancy centres in North America may have behaved unethically on occasion, the Vancouver CPC and Burnaby CPC adhere to the highest operational standards and a code of counselling ethics as mandated by our membership in the Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services.
Our Crisis Pregnancy Centres in Vancouver and Burnaby are a safe place for clients. We maintain the highest standard of honesty and integrity in fulfilling our responsibilities, and will never misrepresent our services.
We are governed by the Christian Advocacy Society of Greater Vancouver (CAS), a faith-based ministry providing compassionate, non-judgemental help to women experiencing unplanned pregnancies, post abortion grief, domestic violence, and sexual assault. To view a brief video clip on our CAS charity, please click here.
All peer counselling services are provided free of charge — a gift from the church community to those in crisis.
We look forward to serving you.
For Media Inquiries, please contact:
Ginimi Chan, Administrator
Christian Advocacy Society of Greater Vancouver
7416 Edmonds Street
Burnaby, BC V3N 1A8
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