“Clearly the perception is that the attorney general’s office is no longer independent, but political as hell.” – Broadcaster Rafe Mair – Georgia Straight (July 8-15, 1994):
The time was 1993. Then B.C. Attorney General, and top law enforcement officer for the province, Colin Gabelmann, held a secret meeting with pro-choice groups – specifically to discuss their concerns about the mounting political opposition to abortion in the Province. The main organizer of the meeting, the BC Coalition for Abortion Clinics, was an abortion advocacy organization that had mounted through the years a number of political rallies and events, including an illegal sit-in.
As Vancouver Sun Reporter Keith Baldrey wrote:
“At issue is a meeting that Gabelmann had last June with representatives of Everywomen’s Health Centre, which provides abortion services in Vancouver….One of those protesters was Gordon Watson, who had been charged with contempt of court for defying the injunction. When he heard that Gabelmann and the clinic representatives had met, he wanted information about the meeting in case it could have an impact on his own contempt trial, and to see whether his own case was discussed at the meeting. Watson wanted Gabelmann to testify….Gabelmann…filed an affidavit last August in a bid to quash the subpoena and to avoid testifying in court. Included in that affidavit was Gabelmann’s statement that he did not keep notes during the meeting, and that he considered the subpoena was filed for “political purposes”.
A subsequent freedom-of-information request by Watson turned up two pages of notes taken during the meeting – one of them in Gabelmann’s handwriting.
The notes were sent to Gabelmann’s office by a Vancouver Sun reporter who wanted to question him about the discrepancy. Last week, Gabelmann filed a new affidavit, correcting the error about the notes. (Vancouver Sun April 20, 1994)
Headlines and Editorials at the time:
“A little bad memory a bad thing for A-G” -Vancouver Sun, April 14, 1994
“A-G Under Probe” – The Province, April 15, 1994
“Affidavit demands nothing short of A-G’s resignation” – Vancouver Sun, April 15, 1994
“Gabelmann can’t hide from controversy” – Vancouver Sun, April 15, 1994
“Pressure mounting for AG to resign” – Victoria Times Colonist, April 16, 1994
“A-G ‘hedging on his answers’ “ – Vancouver Sun, April 20, 1994
Present at the first documented secret meeting (June 17, 1993) were: David Bellamy, counsel for Elizabeth Bagshaw Clinic; BC Attorney General Colin Gabelmann; Brian Neal, Bill Scigliano, Michael McEvoy and Joan Young also of the AG’s Ministry; Marg Panton, Will Offley, Barbara Westwood and Caroline Murphy of the Everywoman’s Health Clinic; Bethan Everett, Nita Iyer and Gwen Brodsky of the Elizabeth Bagshaw Clinic; and Joy Thompson and Katherine Ferguson of the B.C. Coalition for Abortion Clinics.
Next Up: What the secret meeting notes tell us about the Ministry of Attorney General, and the “special” interest it now seems to have to quash dissent on abortion.