OTTAWA - The tough-on-crime Conservative cabinet is taking a hands-off approach to a Diamond Jubilee medal being awarded to a repeat offender jailed for harassing women over abortion.

Saskatchewan Conservative backbencher Maurice Vellacott has won kudos from the pro-life community for recommending that jailed anti-abortion crusader Mary Wagner be commended for her "civil disobedience to further a just cause."

Vellacott also recommended a medal for Linda Gibbons, another woman who has been charged repeatedly for encroaching on abortion clinics and harassing staff and patients.

Wagner, 38, is currently in jail in Toronto awaiting trial after entering a clinic in August — this following a conviction in March for a similar offence last November when she attempted to force her way into a Toronto clinic's private treatment area.

Court documents show Wagner has four similar convictions dating back to 2000 in Vancouver.

Locking up repeat offenders has been a Conservative mantra since the party took power in 2006, but Public Safety Minister Vic Toews denied any knowledge Tuesday of the Wagner case when he was asked about the award at a joint news conference with Treasury Board President Tony Clement.

Clement jumped in to say that, "as you know, these nominations come forward from a variety of sources, I am told."

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson was similarly blase, saying it is up to Vellacott — a 15-year veteran Conservative MP first elected in 1997 — to address the matter. Nicholson said that he personally is very happy to have awarded Diamond Jubilee medals to victims of crime.

A news release from Vellacott's office said the MP couldn't award medals "to the victims of crime, because these baby victims are dead."

Instead, the release said, he chose Wagner and Gibbons, calling them "heroines of humanity."

"It's a pretty upside down world when we honour abortionists like Henry Morgentaler for killing over 5,000 babies and imprison precious women, like Mary Wagner and Linda Gibbons, who try to save babies from such savagery," the news release said.

Vellacott's Jubilee citation to Wagner alludes to her willingness to do jail time in the cause of stopping abortions.

"Your faithful battle for justice for pre-born children, with your willingness to suffer hardship and personal deprivation, is a source of strength and inspiration for many," says the medal citation, awarded by the Governor General's office.

Bob Rae, the Liberals' interim leader, called it "bizarre, in my view, to be giving medals to people who are in jail for harassment or for causing mischief or for breaking probation."

"I think it's completely inappropriate," Rae said outside the House of Commons.

Marie-Pierre Belanger, a spokeswoman for the vice-regal office, said nominators "are expected to establish their own selection process to nominate Canadians for the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and to choose responsibly."

Some 60,000 medals are being awarded based on a loose guideline to "focus on the achievements of persons who have helped to build the Canada of today," according to the Governor General's website.

It also suggests that "through their achievements and sustained contribution, the candidates have distinguished themselves from others employed in the same field."

In that respect, Mary Wagner certainly applies.

Wagner's most recent conviction last March ended up at an appeals court after the trial judge effectively blew a gasket over her repeat offences.

Court transcripts show she somehow gained access to a secure waiting room of a Toronto abortion clinic, had the waiting patients and their escorts in tears demanding her removal, then attempted to force her way through a door when staff ushered the patients into a more secure counselling and treatment area.

She refused to leave when police arrived and was charged with trespassing, along with two counts of breach of probation.

Her resulting six-month sentence was overturned on appeal in September by the Superior Court of Justice, which found that trial Judge S. Ford Clement had made "ill-advised and inappropriate" comments during her sentencing.

Clement, the appeal court noted, "commented that the appellant had displayed an 'utter contempt' for previous court orders and had demonstrated a 'lack of respect for the rights of others, and the rule of law.'"

"The trial judge also noted that, by purporting to act according to a 'higher moral obligation' than the laws of our country, the appellant represented a 'potential threat and danger to the well-being and safety of civil society' and sowed the 'seeds of lawlessness … disorder, or perhaps even anarchy.'"

On Sept. 27, Wagner's sentence was reduced to time served — 88 days — and three years probation. By then, however, she had already breached her probation by entering another abortion clinic.

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  • Where The Parties Stand On Abortion

    Here's a look at the official position of Canada's federal parties, and how the controversial debate has reared its head in recent years. <em>With files from CBC</em>

  • Conservative Party

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said that he has no interest in addressing the issue head-on.<br><br>"As long as I am prime minister we are not opening the abortion debate," Mr. Harper said in April 2011. "The government will not bring forward any such legislation, and any such legislation that is brought forward will be defeated as long as I am prime minister." (CP)

  • NDP

    NDP leader Tom Mulcair has stated that his caucus is unanimous in its opposition to the private member's motion calling on Parliament to look at whether a fetus is a human being, but he plans to force his MPs to vote along party lines.<br><br>"We're resolutely in favour of women's right to choose," Mulcair declared. (CP)

  • Liberal Party

    Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae has stressed that the abortion issue is matter of individual conscience. Rae expressed his personal opposition to reopening the debate, but said Liberal MPs will be allowed to vote "their conscience" rather than force them to toe the party line.<br><br>"Our position on reproductive choice, my position on reproductive choice is very, very clear. It has been for decades. The position is it's a person's right to choose." (CP)

  • Planned Parenthood Funding Controversy

    Saskatoon-Humboldt MP Brad Trost tells Saskatchewan's ProLife Association in April 2011 that the federal government has decided to cut funding to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, a decision he says was influenced by anti-abortion supporters.<br><br>"I cannot tell you specifically how we used it, but those petitions were very, very useful and they were part of what we used to defund Planned Parenthood because it has been an absolute disgrace that that organization and several others like it have been receiving one penny of Canadian taxpayers' dollars," Trost said.<br><br>Maurice Vellacott, a Conservative MP from Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, also calls for Planned Parenthood to be defunded.<br><br>Vellacott says the controversy over the funding "exposed the lies and destructiveness of IPPF's agenda."<br><br>"It exposes what this abortion giant is surreptitiously trying to achieve worldwide."<br><br>International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda approves funding. (CP)

  • 'Coerced' Abortion Law

    Conservative Winnipeg MP Rod Bruinooge proposes "Roxanne's Law" in 2010, a bill that would penalize anyone who "coerced" a woman into ending her pregnancy against her will.<br><br>"It's not just as simple as feeling pressured to get an abortion; there is a lot of discussion of sex-selection abortion these days, as well," Bruinooge told the Winnipeg Free Press. "It's part of the overall topic of intimidation that goes towards a pregnant woman."<br><br>Bruinooge insisted the bill wasn't meant to force Parliament to wade into the debate banned by Harper, stating that nothing in his bill made it illegal to abort a fetus.<br><br>But the Liberals and New Democrats saw it as a backdoor entry into the touchy topic.<br><br>"How is an abortion bill not an abortion bill?" said then-Liberal MP Anita Neville. "This certainly introduces discussion into the House of Commons and it is a rather sneaky way of doing it."<br><br>Then-NDP leader Jack Layton echoed her concerns. "You have got to wonder what is really going on here."<br><br>The bill was defeated in December of 2010, with 178 votes for and 97 against it. Harper and many Conservatives voted against it and 10 Liberals supported it. The NDP was unanimously against it. (Handout)

  • Maternal Health

    International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda discloses for the first time in April 2011 that Canada will not fund abortions in its G8 child and maternal health-care initiative for developing countries.<br><br>Keith Martin, then-Liberal MP who had defected from the Tories years earlier, expressed outrage. "People here are perplexed and wondering why Canada is rolling back the clock and depriving women in developing countries from having the same rights to basic health care and access to abortion as women in Canada," he said.<br><br>Then-NDP leader Jack Layton accused the Tories of putting Canada on side with former U.S. president George Bush, who reduced support for abortion-related aid.<br><br>"It's picking up the banner that George Bush used to carry, and I think that that's not something that would be supported by the majority of Canadians, that's for sure," Layton said.<br><br>On June 25, Canada pledged $1.1 billion to a global initiative on maternal and child health for developing countries - a disproportionately high amount compared to other G8 countries. Canada did not allow for its share to be used in the funding of abortions. (CP)