Opening up the Abortion Debate in Canada

Well, sadly, it would seem that I was prescient when I wrote Reproductive Rights Discourse on March 18, 2012. In this post, I explored how Canada is affected by political discourse coming out of the United States. In the last 2 years, there has been an assault of biblical proportions on not only abortion but also contraception in the US. Even though Stephen Harper has said he is not interested in opening up the abortion debate he seems willing to let his backbencher Stephen Woodworth do it for him.

Motion 312, put forward by Woodworth, seeks to change the definition of when a fetus becomes a child. Referencing Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, a fetus becomes a human being once it is born. Woodworth is asking the following questions:

  1. what medical evidence exists to demonstrate that a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth?
  2. is the preponderance of medical evidence consistent with the declaration in Subsection 223(1) that a child is only a human being at the moment of complete birth?
  3. what are the legal impact and consequences of Subsection 223(1) on the fundamental human rights of a child before the moment of complete birth?
  4. what are the options available to Parliament in the exercise of its legislative authority in accordance with the Constitution and decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada to affirm, amend, or replace Subsection 223(1)?

The questions Woodworth is seeking to answer in Motion 312 would fundamentally change how abortion is viewed and provided in Canada. If passed, this motion could mandate all sorts of restrictions on access to abortion.

Now, one might want to ask why Stephen Harper has allowed this motion to go forward. There is no way that Harper the Control Freak would allow anything to go forward without his approval. So even though he says he does not want the abortion debate opened he is allowing just that to happen. He says he will vote against the motion but what does that really mean? By allowing this motion to move forward he is adding to the discourse that seeks to impose severe limitations on a woman’s right to choose. And, as students of discourse theory know, the more we talk about something the more powerful the discourse becomes and before we know it trans-vaginal ultrasounds are the norm prior to abortions in Canada.

Now, lest you think it is only the Conservative party of Canada who is seeking to oppress women let’s take a look at the Liberal Party of Canada. Justin Trudeau has been tweeting, quite proudly, that the LPC will have a free vote on this issue. That’s right folks, the LPC is also prepared to allow their MPs to vote their ‘conscience.’ This pisses me off. A quick scan through the list of MPs indicates 5 of 35 Liberals elected to Parliament are women. When Liberal MPs are allowed to vote their ‘conscience’ 30 men will get to have a say on what women do with their bodies. This is an excellent example of why the LPC is doing so badly in Canada: there is no leadership, no ideology to which people can adhere. It is in these really tough decisions that leadership makes a difference. Bob Rae has an opportunity to show he can lead. Sadly, I think we will all be disappointed.

What I find even more disturbing is the lack of leadership from Justin Trudeau. This is a man who grew up in a political house with one of the best leaders Canada has ever had.[1] He should understand how important ideology is to politics. Did he not learn lessons from his father? He is also of a younger generation than Bob Rae. This does not bode well his future in politics.

Now onto the NDP; Nikki Ashton announced “In Canada, in 2012, a woman’s right to choose is not up for negotiation.’ She confirmed that the NDP would vote unanimously against the motion. Don’t forget that the NDP now has over a hundred members from Quebec where Catholicism still runs deep. Tom Mulcair, unlike the wimpy Rae and Harper, is not allowing his MPs to a free vote. He understands that to do so would be to muddy waters about the real issue, which is safe access to abortion for all Canadian women.

Living in a society where men are the overwhelming decision makers about women’s access to reproductive choice is so incredibly disturbing. This makes it clear that women are still second-class citizens in this country. When men are able to carry a child to term, then perhaps they can have a say. Until then they have no right to force their or their god’s[2] will on women.


[1] I can never decide who was the best leader: Trudeau or Chretien.

[2] Don’t forget, most people who are anti-choice are doing it because of religious doctrine.

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Don’t blink…

Well it seems that blinking or turning your eye from the news for a few hours means that you will be woefully behind with regard to the latest shenanigans in Ottawa. I was fairly sure the Coalition would not last with Dion at the helm but I certainly did not predict the speed with which he has been dispatched to the political wilderness. Stephen Harper succeeded in making sure that Dion will go down as one of the worst leaders of the Liberal Party of Canada, ever. I think he deserved more. Yes, Dion had many faults. Mostly though his problem was that he was too smart for those around him and he chose not to conduct himself accordingly. When your entire party does not understand one of the main planks of your election platform you have a problem.  The fact that kept on pushing through, with the same strategy, shows his hubris. This should not have come as a big surprise to Liberals – after all who could say that they *understood* the Clarity Act.

Now, that brings us to Michael Ignatieff. I am not sure he is the best choice as leader of the Liberal Party of the Canada. Like Dion, he is an academic which could pose the same kind of problems. My sense of Ignatieff is that he knows he is right and he is going to make damn sure that everyone else knows it too. I have not seen any leadership coming from him at all since he first burst on to the federal political scene. He does not inspire confidence for me. He is the slightly better choice but only marginally.

On to Bob Rae. I have always liked Bob Rae. I lived in Ontario when he was premier and he was hammered from all sides. It is really hard to be an NDP premier during a recession when you need unions to give you some concessions. Unfortunately for Bob, ‘Rae’ days will haunt him forever. He would never be able to win enough seats in Ontario to form a government. The Liberals would be foolish to elect him as their leader.

So, who would be good? Well, the Liberal Party of Canada is at a crossroads. They need to morph into a party that speaks to people. To do this they need a charismatic leader. Hell, even a leader would do. The reason they have been so unsuccessful since Chretien left is because they have not yet had a true leader.

Brian Tobin is a leader – I am not sure why he has not run. He would be great. The man made fish exciting during the Turbot wars with Spain. I am positive he could turn around the Liberal’s fortunes. He must have a really good gig going on in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Deb is convinced that Frank McKenna could do something but he has also not put his hat into the ring. Again, not really clear why.

Clearly, what the Liberals need is the next generation. The current generation is old and tired and ready to retire. Pierre Trudeau burst on to the national scene and snatched the Leadership away from Paul Martin Sr. (which is why Junior needed to be PM so bad). I think what we need is Justin. Yes, he is young and has just been elected. Nothing was handed to him in the last election. He electrified Canadians with his eulogy for his father and he showed that he has every bit as much charisma as Pierre. Justin may be inexperienced in Parliament but he grew up in a political household. He has received a political education unlike any other. Perhaps he will be our Barack Obama.