12. Moral issues prominent in Alberta election: Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government was bleeding support to the upstart and more socially conservative Wild Rose Party in the April election when leader Alison Redford attacked Wild Rose’s libertarian leader Danielle Smith for supporting conscience rights and scrapping the Alberta Human Rights Commission and tolerating so many social conservative candidates. The Tories won 61 seats with 44 per cent of the vote, down 11 seats and 8.8 per cent compared to 2008. Wild Rose won 17 seats and Smith immediately began courting the social left, vowing to drop conscience rights and rethink the party’s approach to the AHRC.
11. Growing involvement of pro-life youth: The Defund Abortion campaign in Ontario featuring pamphlet drops in January and February, a petition drive that collected more than 20,000 signatures, and October mini-rallies at more than 40 constituency offices is led by Campaign Life Coalition Youth. The New Abortion Caravan is a pro-life outreach by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform involving more than 20 people 19-36 years old showing 7-foot by 22-foot graphic images of aborted children on trucks as they travelled from Vancouver to Ottawa. Grade 12 student Alexandra Jezierski of Kingsville, Ont., organized Letters for Life which resulted in more than 100,000 letters being sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in support of M-312. Youth were also involved in the national and regional marches for life, youth conferences, LifeChain, and 40 Days for Life, in addition to campus activism in the nation’s high school and universities.
10. House votes to rescind Section 13 limits on free speech: On a party-line 153-136 vote, the House passes Brian Storseth’s private member’s bill, C-304, rescinding Section 13 of the Canada Human Rights Act that proscribes so-called hate speech. It has not passed the Senate but is expected to pass when it comes to third reading in 2013.
9. Pro-lifers receive Queen’s Jubilee medals: Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin) arranged for activists Linda Gibbons and Mary Wagner to receive the Queen’s Jubilee medal for their pro-life witness. He was criticized for nominating two pro-life activists who spent time in jail for violating abortion facility “bubble zone” laws and injunctions.
8. We Need a Law initiative reignites gestational approach debate: Pro-life groups in Canada frequently differ over the best strategy to promote the pro-life issue in Canada, but the rhetoric was ramped up in the Spring and Summer when We Need a Law, an initiative of the Association for Reformed Political Action, was launched with the goal of pushing for a law that would limit abortion by gestational age, which some pro-life groups saw an expedient and others called an unnecessary compromise that would do little to protect the preborn.
7. Ontario Education Minister says schools can’t teach pro-life: In October Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten, in her capacity of Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, said in a press conference responding to a Campaign Life Coalition initiative to defund abortion in the province, that Catholic schools in Ontario should not be allowed to teach against abortion, claiming that doing so was in effect bullying against women and thus in violation of the Accepting Schools Act.
6. Push for transgender rights picks up steam: Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Ontario add special protections for individuals who self-identify as transsexual and transgender when they amend their human rights legislation to include gender identity and gender expression; the only jurisdiction to previously so enshrine such categories in human rights law was the Northwest Territories. In Parliament, a private member’s bill, C-279, seeking similar amendments to federal human rights and criminal code laws, passed second reading and its committee hearing and is awaiting third reading in early 2013.
5. Sex-selective abortion becomes major issue in Canada: The Canadian Medical Association Journal editorialized against sex-selective abortion, the CBC revealed the complicity of ultrasound clinics in gendercide amongst some communities in Canada, and Conservative MP Mark Warawa announced he would introduce a private member’s motion to condemn the practice early in 2013.
4. Obama runs as the most pro-abortion candidate ever: Leading Democrats including President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden attack the Republican Party and its presidential ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as carrying out a “war on women” because the they opposed a wide-open abortion license and federal funding of Planned Parenthood. The Democratic National Convention features the heads of Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, as well as contraception rights activist Sandra Fluke as prime time speakers.
3. Accepting Schools Act passed: The Ontario government with the support of the NDP passed Bill 13, which pro-family and religious critics say is a gay normalization initiative promoted under the guise of anti-bullying. The Accepting Schools Act imposes Gay-Straight Alliances on all publicly funded schools in the province, including Catholic schools, if any student requests one. (Ontario Human Rights Commission chair Barbara Hall says the law also applies to religious private schools.)
2. B.C. court rules in favour of euthanasia: Ignoring the 1993 Supreme Court Rodriguez precedent and the clearly expressed wishes of Parliament that voted 228-59 in 2010 against legalizing euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide, Justice Lynn Smith of the British Columbia Supreme Court declared the Criminal Code prohibitions on euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide unconstitutional violations of the Section 7 rights to life, liberty and security of the person for people with disabilities. Smith ordered Parliament to rewrite the law to permit euthanasia and assisted-suicide, kept the law in force for 12 months until Parliament could act, but granted a “constitutional exemption” to Gloria Taylor, a Lou Gehrig’s (ALS) patient so she could be euthanized with a court order despite the existing Criminal Code prohibitions. (Taylor has since reportedly died of natural causes.) The case is being appealed to the British Columbia Court of Appeal and is expected to eventually be decided by the Supreme Court of Canada.
1. M-312 initiates a debate about prenatal life: At the end of 2011, Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener Centre) said he would introduce a motion calling upon parliament to examine the modern scientific evidence about prenatal human life to determine whether Criminal Code Subsection 223(1) which states a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth should be updated. In April, Chief Government Whip Gordon O’Connor gave what some called the most pro-abortion speech ever delivered on the House floor, sending a signal from the Prime Minister’s Office that Stephen Harper wanted to defeat the bill and have his conservative caucus oppose it. Parliament voted in September 203-91 to defeat the motion, but 87 Conservatives and 10 members of the cabinet voted over the objections of the Prime Minister. One of those voting for it Rona Ambrose, Minister of State (Status of Women), was criticized for supporting a pro-life motion, with feminists and unions, who called for her resignation claiming that the cabinet minister responsible for women’s issues should be unambiguously pro-abortion. Woodworth calls motion a victory for the debate it instigated in the media and among the general public.
Honourable mentions: The case of Hassan Rasouli goes to the Supreme Court where the top court will rule on Ontario’s medical consent regime and the definition of the term “medical treatment”; Fr. Alphonse de Valk retires as editor of Catholic Insight after more than two decades at the helm of the magazine; Chick-fil-A is attacked by gay rights activists leading pro-family supporters to rally in support of the fast food chain in August in a massive grassroots show of customer appreciation; Ontario hides the number of abortions when the Liberal government passed Bill 122, the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act which puts abortion statistics beyond the scrutiny of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act and thus excludes media or citizens from requesting information about the procedure; The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 against Linda Gibbons in her appeal of disobeying a court order which her lawyer Daniel Sartoro said should be heard in a civil court, not a criminal court; More than 25,000 people participate in the National March for Life and regional marches for life.