By Jonathon Van Maren
It is a singular irony that both federal and provincial left-wing parties like to claim that Canada’s assortment of conservative parties have a nefarious hidden agenda: They want to re-open the abortion debate. In fact, Conservative politicians, for the most part, want nothing of the kind—abortion is an issue that most of them would prefer to hide from, regardless of the fact that a comfortable majority of Canadians would support restrictions on abortion at some point. It is the Left that brings up the issue, over and over again—Rachel Notley’s NDP restricting free speech around clinics, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals doing the same in Ontario, and, of course, Justin Trudeau requiring that organizations applying for the Canada Summer Jobs Program first indicate their support for his interpretation of what “Charter values.”
Incidentally, Trudeau’s move unintentionally triggered a new recognition among Canada’s commentators that actually, abortion isn’t a Charter right, something that Kelly McParland of the National Post took pains to point out in a column earlier today:
Such is the case with Rhea Lynne Anderson and William Anderson, a couple from Brooks, Alta., who run a small irrigation company, A-1 Irrigation & Technical Services, which employs nine people and provides “ecologically responsible” services to agriculture operations. The Andersons applied to Canada Summer Jobs, hoping to hire a student interested in water conservation. The response was a letter from Ottawa insisting they check off a box on the application demanding their adherence to the government’s abortion stand.
As Rhea Anderson notes in an affidavit challenging the decision, guidelines for the summer jobs program “specifically includes within its definition of ‘reproductive rights’ ‘the right to access safe and legal abortions.’ ”
I have no idea of Rhea Andersons’ personal values, but she doesn’t feel the government has the right to tell her what to believe. As she states: “I could not, without violating my conscience, attest to the (Liberal demand) as it compels me to agree with the federal government’s ideological conception of the ‘values’ that ‘underlie’ the Charter; to agree to be bound by the legal obligations of the Charter as though our business were government, and to engage in speech that is not my own, or freely chosen by me.”
She continues: “I believe it violates my fundamental freedoms, protected by section 2 of the Charter, to be required by government to attest to any opinion, belief, perspective or ideology to benefit from a government program for which I am otherwise eligible.”
A week ago the Andersons filed a Charter case challenging the Liberal program. Their statement says it all: Trudeau’s party is using public funding for summer jobs to dictate the morality of Canadians, using access to a jobs program as a way to force people to deny personal beliefs, even if those beliefs are themselves fully compliant with the law and are protected by the Charter of Rights.
Their complaint underlines the rank dishonesty of Ottawa’s stand: the Charter does not ban abortion. There is, in fact, no law on abortion in Canada. The Trudeau government’s claim that respecting abortion rights is necessary to comply with the Charter is wholly invented to serve its own needs. What the Charter does protect is the right to hold personal viewpoints without being persecuted by the government or anyone else. In essence, Ottawa is using a made-up Charter value to deny an actual Charter right. And for all its posturing, it seems not to grasp this.
The Liberals seem incapable of grasping a lot of things lately. As McParland pointed out, their “usual approach to abortion is to use it as a cudgel against any and all Conservatives they feel in line for a smearing,” most notably Stephen Harper, who went to enormous lengths to shut the abortion debate down. Abortion activists hated Harper anyways, and are so determined to force any hint of compassion for children in the womb out of the public discourse that they seem to have forgotten that their views on feticide throughout all nine months of pregnancy are pretty far outside of the mainstream. As McParland notes:
As with the prime minister, abortion-rights supporters appear determinedly blind to the possibility Canadians may question the existing lack of protection for the unborn without having to be a religious nut or raging misogynist. They are deaf to the fact people may just care about the rights of children, and their own right to hold personal beliefs.
As the cases proliferate, the debate grows. David Adams Richard, a Trudeau-appointed senator, denounced the Liberals’ stand as “arrogant and disastrous,” noting “it is couched in terms of liberty, but there is not a totalitarian government in the world who wouldn’t agree with it.” Scott Simms, a Newfoundland Liberal MP, voted for a Conservative motion opposing the abortion stipulation and was removed as chair of the Fisheries and Oceans committee as punishment. When the jobs program recently approved funding for an activist group seeking to hire someone to help block the Liberal-supported Kinder Morgan pipeline, Trudeau cited it as evidence of the government’s devotion to free speech. Free speech, yes — just not when it comes to abortion.
So give credit to the Liberals. Many Canadians of different creeds and values have chafed at the unspoken injunction against public discussion of a fundamental aspect of human life. All parties have feared to raise the matter at risk of unleashing intense public emotions. Now the prime minister has put abortion on the agenda. He may have stumbled into it blindly, bound up with his own unshakeable faith in the absolute rightness of his personal beliefs, but there it is. A discussion that needs to be held, brought to you by government ineptitude.
Justin Trudeau and his handful of abortion activist pals wanted the abortion debate closed—or so they claimed. I doubt Justin Trudeau thought he’d be the one to trigger the first national discussion on the rights of pro-lifers and whether abortion really is a Charter value, anyhow.
For anyone interested, my books: The Culture War, Seeing is Believing: Why Our Culture Must Face the Victims of Abortion, and How To Discuss Assisted Suicide, are available for sale here.