Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Province never charged Morgentaler

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There are some important factual errors in Linda Taylor's article on Manitoba women (Manitoba women lead equality fight, Mar. 6).

Her inference the alleged anti-choice position of the "male-dominated" cabinet played a role in the 1983 Criminal Code charges against Dr. Morgentaler is completely wrong.

Aside from the fact virtually every member of the NDP cabinet (and most importantly former premier Howard Pawley and myself as attorney general) were pro-choice, no matter of criminal prosecutions was ever brought to cabinet, nor could it be. The independence of an attorney general as "first law officer of the Crown" in matters of criminal prosecutions is constitutionally sacrosanct.

Moreover, the charges against Dr. Morgentaler and members of his staff were laid not by the provincial government but by the completely independent City of Winnipeg police department, exercising its statutory duty once Dr. Morgentaler publicly announced his free-standing clinic was performing abortions contrary to the criminal law as it then existed.

I had instructed the director of prosecutions not to bring the charges to trial pending the outcome of a charter challenge to the law then pending in the Supreme Court (a course of action which, in fact, I had recommended in private discussions with Greg Brodsky, Dr. Morgentaler's lawyer).

The decision of the Supreme Court in January 1988 striking down the Criminal Code provisions, as I was confident it would, ended the matter and all pending charges were immediately dropped.

ROLAND PENNER

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 8, 2014 A16

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