Canada Supreme Court Backs Pro-Life Nurse in Abortion-Free Speech Case

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 30, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canada Supreme Court Backs Pro-Life Nurse in Abortion-Free Speech Case

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 30
, 2008

Ottawa, Canada ( — The Supreme Court of Canada has sided with a pro-life nurse who was disciplined by the Saskatchewan Association of Licensed Practical Nurses for protesting outside an abortion business. Bill Whatcott lost his nursing license in January 2005 when he was found guilty of unprofessional conduct.

Whatcott had demonstrated in front of Planned Parenthood abortion centers in 2002 and 2003 and was falsely accused of intimidating staff and patients there.

In their decision, a discipline committee of the Saskatchewan Association of Licensed Practical Nurses (SALPN) found the former Regina-based nurse guilty of unprofessional conduct and suspended Whatcott’s license for 45 days.

The organization also made him pay a $15,000 fine to cover the group’s legal and administrative costs.

The decision against Whatcott was upheld by the Court of Queen’s Bench and then overturned by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal. This week, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the nurses’ society’s appeal of that appellate court decision.

According to the CanWest News Service, Whatcott attorney Thomas Schuck told the high court that the nurses group was wrong to punish Whatcott for engaging in free speech demonstrations on his own time.

“It really cast a chill on all professional bodies, where professional bodies themselves take a political position – and they do – and then start disciplining their members who speak otherwise,” Schuck said.

Chris Bailey, executive director of the nursing group, told the news outlet that the association felt it could punish Whatcott because it claimed he made his status at a nurse look bad.

“Our position has always been, if you are a (licensed practical nurse) and are doing things that interfere with access to health care or interfere with what your patient’s best interests are, then that’s a professional issue,” he said.

After the wrongful punishment, Whatcott let his nursing license lapse and now he will be able to apply for reinstatement. During the lawsuit, he’s been working as a trucker in Alberta.