Christian Advocacy Society claims investigative news story was inaccurate and costly for them
By Nathan Rumohr
The B.C. Catholic
One of Canada's top TV networks is being sued for defamation by a Christian-run crisis pregnancy centre after a series aired in January. The undercover features insinuated the centre was not giving pregnant women proper medical information, the lawsuit alleges.
"The broadcasts and subsequent CTV web articles had lots of problems, including journalistic inaccuracies, misquotes, and the misidentification of our centre in storyline details, on film, and by photographs, so we sued about the foregoing issues," said Brian Norton.
Norton is the executive director of the Christian Advocacy Society of Greater Vancouver, which oversees the Vancouver Crisis Pregnancy Centre.
The Vancouver centre claims the CTV reports have harmed them, so they are seeking damages for defamation, breach of contract, and misrepresentation, and want retractions and corrections, according to Courtroomnews.com.
The Vancouver centre was one of two pregnancy centres showcased in a series of broadcasts by journalist Jon Woodward that aired in January during the CTV-BC News. The Pregnancy Options Centre based in Surrey was the other.
"CTV News contacted our charity in January informing us they were conducting an investigation of CPC Vancouver because of a complaint by a past client," Norton said.
"This investigation, according to CTV, was to determine the accuracy of the medical information of our client options brochure, and whether we are up front with clients we do not refer for abortions. We were genuinely interested in knowing if our centre had done anything wrong."
But according to Norton the complaint referred to by CTV was never made. CTV had sent in a female employee undercover with a hidden camera to pose as a pregnant woman seeking counselling.
The real reason for the CTV investigation stemmed from the same undercover employee filming a volunteer counsellor at the Surrey centre who went "off script" and gave abortion information that was accurate but rare in Canada.
CTV used the counsellor's exaggerated information as an excuse to investigate both the Surrey Options Centre and CPC Vancouver (which are not affiliated) about their abortion information.
Norton said the investigation didn't focus on the medical authenticity of CPC Vancouver's medical information and instead used abortion-supporting "experts" to denounce all crisis pregnancy centres for misleading the public with abortion misinformation.
He said CTV gave extensive coverage to Greg Smith, the executive director of Options for Sexual Health (Planned Parenthood B.C.) and Dr. Wendy Norman of BC Women's Hospital and the former president of Options for Sexual Health. He added that CTV did not interview any of the medical experts involved in writing CPC Vancouver's medical brochures.
"A pro-choice organization with a stated goal of working to revoke our charitable status and United Way eligibility is presented as a neutral critic of CPCs," Norton said.
"Our issue is not that a pro-choice organization is given opportunity to criticize us on air, but CTV chose not to give our charity an opportunity to respond to the erroneous allegations. This is not balanced journalism. This is an agenda."
Norton said CTV did air a small portion of an interview with Dr. Dan Reilly, an obstetrics and gynecology doctor and an associate clinical professor at McMaster University, who corroborated the medical information in CPC Vancouver's brochure.
"Most of what I said was left on the cutting room floor," Dr. Reilly told The B.C. Catholic. "He (Woodward) wanted to know if the counselling book the crisis pregnancy centre had developed was accurate and consistent with modern medicine, which it is."
"CTV chose not to disclose this finding in its broadcasts," Norton said, "even though, according to CTV, this subject (the medical information) was the main reason for its investigation."
Dr. Reilly's brief appearance in the broadcast focused on his comments on the Surrey counsellor's "misleading abortion information."
"I think what was said in the broadcast was very focused on this one volunteer who went off script and inaccurately gave information," Dr. Reilly said. "(The CTV investigation) didn't really talk at all about the guideline books or the centres but more on this one problem. Whether this is deliberate or not I don't know."
Norton wouldn't comment on where the lawsuit currently stands but said that the CTV investigation has cost the Christian Advocacy Society time, resources, and their reputation with schools, community agencies, and new clients.
CTV said they have no comment on the lawsuit, and Jon Woodward did not return calls from The B.C. Catholic.