The Pro-Choice Action Network (formerly the B.C. Coalition for Abortion Clinics) was the political and activist wing of British Columbia’s pro-abortion movement. It is now defunct, but not before revelations, largely courtesy of Freedom of Information, documented an obsession between the B.C. Ministry of Attorney General’s Office and this political action group.
Supported by donations and individual members and donors, along with thousands of dollars of tax-payer money, it was responsible for the establishment of B.C.’s first free-standing abortion clinic, the Everywoman’s Health Centre.
It’s newsletter, the Pro-Choice Press, was published in Vancouver by editor Joyce Arthur. Arthur has worked extensively for the provincial government as a technical writer, even working for the Ministry of Attorney General!
Over the years, Pro-CAN (BCCAC) has been responsible for numerous demonstrations, both legal and illegal, in favor of abortion rights. The centre of much controversy, the group held a series of secret, clandestine meetings in the early 1990’s with members of the government, including workers within the BC Ministry of Attorney General, discussing ways of neutralizing the political opposition to abortion in B.C. It was perhaps the first time that members of the chief law enforcement agency in B.C. met with a purely political organization to discuss their political opposition – and how to deal with them.
A frightening prospect indeed.
At the very least it seriously tainted the legal neutrality that the Ministry of Attorney General is supposed to exhibit. The FOI files we have document some of those meetings, as well as show the work of Pro-CAN (BCCAC) in convincing the BC Attorney General to do even more to stop political opposition to abortion throughout the province. It should be noted that the then Attorney General was cleared of any wrongdoing regarding his filing of a false affidavit regarding notes taken during the first documented meeting- but even though the A-G tainted the office, he refused to step down. Subsequent meetings were held that included members of the staff of the Ministry of Attorney General, but memories, as documented in the Special Prosecutor Richard Peck’s report, seem to have “clouded” over as time went on. But the reality remains: Members of the staff of various departments in the Attorney General’s Ministry took a strange interest in those opposed to abortion. As Broadcaster Rafe Mair stated in the Georgia Straight (July 8-15, 1994): “Clearly the perception is that the attorney general’s office is no longer independent, but political as hell.”
Present at the first documented meeting (June 17, 1993) included: 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.