Senator Stanley Haidasz (Liberal) introduced five pro-life bills during his 20 years in the upper chamber.

Senator Stanley Haidasz (Liberal) introduced five pro-life bills during his 20 years in the upper chamber.

One of Canada’s most committed pro-life politicians, Stanley Haidasz, passed away August 6 at the age of 86.

Haidasz, a Liberal, served in Parliament for nearly a half-century. First elected in 1957, he lost his re-election bid the following year, but regained his Parkdale seat in Toronto in 1962 and was then re-elected five times. In 1978, he was appointed to the Senate.

He retired from the Upper Chamber in 1998 at the age of 75. Haidasz was also Canada’s first minister of state for multi-culturalism in the early 1970s and played key roles in several signature Liberal bills, including the passing of bills concerning medicare, the Canada Pension Plan and anti-smoking.

Haidasz graduated from the University of Toronto’s medicine program in 1951, but was only briefly a full-time physician. He entered politics in 1957, but continued to practise medicine, seeing patients on weekends when he returned to Toronto.

Despite an impressive and deep resume, his contribution to Canadian politics is indelibly linked to his vocal and consistent defence of the unborn during his time in the Senate. He authored five pro-life bills, including S-16 in 1988 in response to the Morgentaler decision, which threw out Canada’s limited Criminal Code restrictions on abortion. S-16 passed first reading, but died on the Senate floor when a federal election was called.

The following year, Haidasz sent a survey to more than 64,500 Canadians to solicit their opinions and ascertain their knowledge of the abortion issue. It found that most knew abortion began at conception (66 per cent) and that more than two-thirds of Canadians thought “all human beings had an absolute right to life” (69 per cent). A majority of respondents wanted abortion to be illegal unless the mother’s life was endangered (53 per cent), nearly a third supported some sort of gestational approach (34 per cent) and just 14 per cent supported abortion on demand for all nine months.

The survey also showed widespread ignorance about the reality of abortion in Canada. About half of the respondents were unaware that medicare paid for abortion and nearly 60 per cent did not know there had been one million abortions committed in Canada from 1969 through 1988.

The funding for the survey was arranged by Campaign Life Coalition, but the information was collected by the independent Data Ad Corp. At the time, Haidasz explained the purpose of the survey was to ensure that any new law Parliament considered on abortion reflected “up-to-date medical knowledge, the principle of fundamental justice, the consciences of members of Parliament and the moral standards and beliefs of Canadians.”

Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes remembers a politician who was “a joy to work with.” He told The Interim Haidasz was “accessible” and “always interested in learning more about the issue.” Hughes explained: “Doc always gratefully accepted the information we provided.” He also noted Haidasz arranged for CLC to work with his staff, bureaucrats and lawyers in the drafting of legislation.

As senator, Haidasz introduced four bills that would protect unborn life and sponsored eight amendments to Bill C-43, Brian Mulroney’s flawed abortion bill. Haidasz said C-43 was a “fraud” that would not protect unborn children from abortion because of the loopholes created by the “duplicity” of its language. C-43 was defeated on a tied 43-43 vote in the Senate. Haidasz said the defeat of the bill was “gratifying” because of the “wide and easy access” C-43 would have provided if passed.

In various speeches over the years, Haidasz did not mince words. During the contentious debate over C-43, he called doctors who committed abortions “licensed executioners” and at one point called the 80,000 annual abortions a “holocaust.”

To acknowledge Haidasz’s commitment to the cause, CLC named the senator one of the organization’s first recipients of the Joseph P. Borowski Award, which honours pro-life politicians.

In November 1997, Haidasz introduced Bill S-7, his fifth and final pro-life bill, seeking to provide conscience protection for health care workers who didn’t want to take part in life-destroying activities such as abortion or assisted suicide. When Haidasz retired the next year, the bill died.

In February 1998, weeks before retiring, he introduced a motion to create a “special joint committee on the unborn child” to “examine and report upon the feasibility of legislating in the area of fetal rights and the protection to the unborn child.” It called upon the committee to report back to both the House of Commons and the Senate by 2010 on a course of action. The initiative lost its champion when Haidasz retired on March 4, 1998 at the mandatory senatorial retirement age of 75.

Paul Lauzon, an Ottawa-based researcher and lobbyist with Campaign Life Coalition, worked for Haidasz from 1993 to 1997 in several capacities. He recalled him as “a man of staunch faith” and an unflagging pro-lifer: “He was a solid worker for pro-life.”

But being more than a researcher and assistant to the senator, Lauzon said, “For me, personally, he became a friend.” He noted that when Haidasz received the Borowski award, the senator said part of the award also went to Lauzon.

Haidasz received numerous other awards over his lifetime, including the Order of St. Gregory the Great with Silver Star from Pope John Paul II in 1997.

In 1988, Haidasz provided his office to Mother Teresa to rest during her visit to the nation’s capital.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Natalie, four children, and nine grandchildren.