Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Book recounts chilling attempt to kill

Anti-abortionist sniper tried to snuff out Winnipeg doctor

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Dr. Jack Fainman was sitting at home watching television in his St. Vital home beside the Red River on Remembrance Day in 1997 when suddenly he felt excruciating pain in his shoulder.

It was only when he put his hand on his shoulder and saw blood that he realized he'd been shot.

And it was only later that Fainman, an obstetrician who delivered more than 5,000 babies during his career, learned he was the final Canadian doctor of three targeted by an anti-abortionist sniper.

"I never saw him face to face, but I know he did it," Fainman said on Thursday referring to James Kopp. "He has never been convicted in Canada, but he's already serving a life sentence in the United States. They got him from France where he'd been hiding, but had to promise no death penalty.

"He's already doing life so there's no point in bringing him up here. But I know he did it."

The shot didn't take Fainman's life, but it took his four-decades-long career. Despite months of physiotherapy, he wasn't physically able to go back to work because of the reduced strength and mobility of his arm.

Fainman, and former provincial attorney general Roland Penner, have co-written a book about the shooting and Fainman's life entitled They Shoot Doctors Don't They? You can read an excerpt here.

The book, published by Great Plains Publications, details growing up in Winnipeg's North End and his training as a doctor. At the time of the shooting the then-66-year-old Fainman was the head of obstetrics and gynecology at Victoria General Hospital.

Fainman said if he'd been warned there was a shooter on the loose he might not have been shot. He said he learned years later that after the second Canadian obstetrician was shot in 1995, Hamilton police issued a warning to police departments across the country, but he didn't receive any warning.

"That was very unfortunate," he said. "My house has many windows which brings the outside in. With all that visibility I was an easy target. I'm not angry at police -- I'm just disappointed."

But Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill, who was head of the crime division when the doctor was shot, said they never received the information from Hamilton police.

"The way I recall it, Hamilton sent a fan-out to the different criminal intelligence services to let the police departments know and... either human error or whatever, it just didn't go to Winnipeg," McCaskill said. "We didn't know anything about it... we all felt bad about it."

Fainman said the twin ironies of his shooting is that unlike a Dr. Henry Morgentaler, he was never an advocate pushing for abortions, and abortions were a very small portion of his practice.

"It was only one per cent of my practice," he said. "But I felt in some cases they had to be done. When I did post-graduate work in Chicago I saw people die who had abortions before they were legal.

"That stayed with me."


-- with files from Gabrielle Giroday

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 12, 2011 A8

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