A pro-life group at UBC will be one of the beneficiaries of an out-of-court settlement of $25,000 given this month to John Hof.
The Langley pro-life activist took issue with comments made last summer by Joan Smallwood, who was the minister of women’s equality at the time. On July 12, one day after an unknown assailant stabbed Vancouver abortion provider Garrison Romalis, Smallwood made comments to a CBC reporter linking Hof — president of Campaign Life — to radical abortion groups. “She accused me of being involved with people who shoot doctors and, I’m sorry, but that really hurt,” Hof told BCCN.
After reporter Jeff Davies played Hof an audio tape of the minister’s remarks, the pro-lifer expressed his disbelief and mentioned that he would have his lawyer look into the situation.
On July 14, Smallwood faxed a letter on government stationary apologizing for her remarks. “On reviewing the transcript of that broadcast, it appears you have taken from my comments that your attendance at conferences of radical anti-abortion groups in the United States implies that you, yourself advocate or condone violence against service providers,” she wrote. “It was certainly not my intention to make such an accusation. I wish to take this early opportunity to apologize unreservedly for any embarrassment or harm my comments may have caused you.”
The minister went on to cite Hof’s “oft-expressed position condemning violence” and said it was a “positive step” that Campaign Life had posted a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Romalis’s assailant.
Hof and his legal council pursued the matter further, suggesting that the situation could end up in court if the minister didn’t come up with some financial compensation. At one point, Hof and Smallwood attempted to resolve the case by trying to agree on a charity that the minister could donate $25,000 to. According to Hof, the minister balked at his idea to give the money to the Focus on Life Dinner, an annual pro-life event, and suggested a number of other organizations including the Justice Institute. Hof told BCCN that, since he was the one who was damaged by the comments, he felt it appropriate that he decide on the charity the money would be given to. “So I said ‘see you in court.”
Ten days later, Hof received a cheque from the BC Government to settle the affair. In a prepared statement he wrote: “Her comments were hurtful and I believe she knew them to be untrue. She apologized shortly after making them. I hope this incident serves as an example to everyone with strongly held views about pro-lifers. People, particularly government officials, should not repeat misinformation just to further a political agenda.”
He says some of the money will go to Campaign Life and he will disperse some to other pro-life groups, including UBC’s Lifeline, who have been at the center of a free-speech debate on the institution’s campus. “One of the most effective activism campaigns has been run by those students from UBC,” he says. “Substantial changes are taking place on campus. I’ve never seen discussion surrounding the issue like this… It’s getting out into the streets of Vancouver and that’s what we need in this country, for people to start discussing this issue.”