On Sept. 18, seven former Liberal MPs issued a public letter condemning the current party leader, Justin Trudeau, for his edict that pro-lifers would not be able to seek nominations to stand as Liberal Party candidates and that sitting MPs must vote for abortion if a bill on the issue comes before the House of Commons.
The letter told Trudeau that the former MPs were “concerned about your recent pronouncement that people who hold a particular view on a given moral issue, as a matter of conscience, cannot be Liberal candidates for the position of MP unless they agree to park their consciences at the entrance to the House of Commons and vote directly opposite to their fundamental beliefs, as directed by you.” They warned Trudeau’s “undemocratic” edict would alienate voters.
The former MPs, who collectively won more than 20 elections and sat for 79 years in the House of Commons, included Garnet Bloomfield, who represented London-Middlesex from 1980-1984, Murray Calder (Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey, 1993-2004), Rex Crawford (Kent, 1988-1997), Pat O’Brien (London-Fanshawe, 1993-2006), John O’Reilly (Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, 1993-2004), Janko Peric (Cambridge, 1993-2004), and Tom Wappel (Scarborough Southwest, 1988-2008).
They said Trudeau’s stance reverses the party’s long-standing policy of allowing conscience votes, which it held during its dominance through the Pierre Trudeau to the Jean Chretien years. Bloomfield was one of two Liberals who voted against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 because it did not provide legal protection for the unborn. Tom Wappel, who won five elections in the east Toronto riding of Scarborough Southwest, was arguably the most visibly pro-life MP during his tenure in Parliament, which began in 1988 and saw him vocally opposed to the Mulroney abortion bills.
They also maintain that the edict “clearly discriminates against a select class of people,” and as such violates the spirit of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which Trudeau has invoked to justify his pro-abortion position. The letter states that the edict discriminates against would-be Liberal candidates and MPs by abridging their freedom of conscience and freedoms of thought, belief, opinion, and expression.
The former MPs warn, “if your order is not rescinded, it will stand as a precedent for you, and future Liberal Leaders, to issue similar edicts on other moral issues.” They wondered if future leaders would ban opponents or supporters of euthanasia or cloning. “Where does one draw the line?”
They conclude, “how can such a discriminatory policy serve the democratic ideals of our great nation?”
Liberal Party spokesman Kate Purchase issued a statement in response: “Anyone is entitled to hold their own personal views, but Canadians deserve to know that when they vote Liberal they will get an MP who will vote to defend women’s rights in the House.” She continued, “women’s rights are long-held Liberal values that we will not back down from.”
Trudeau responded to the letter on Twitter: “The days when old men get to decide what a woman does with her body are long gone. Times have changed for the better.”
(Trudeau’s father, Pierre, was 63 when he brought in the Charter of Rights, and he said at the time it would not change anything in regard to the fetus.)
Campaign Life Coalition praised the letter in a press release. CLC national president Jim Hughes said, “all MPs who believe in democracy should be as outspoken as these former MPs, against any leader who dictates how they ought to speak and vote if they wish to join a particular party.”
Hughes also criticized Trudeau’s claim that he is defending Charter Rights while abrogating them. “Trudeau claims the Liberal Party is the party of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but, as is pointed out in the letter, Section 2 guarantees, ‘freedom of conscience’ which includes ‘freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.’ Nowhere in the charter is there a so-called ‘right’ to kill pre-born human beings.” Hughes noted Pierre Trudeau sent a letter to Catholic leaders during the Charter debate saying that it did not create a right to abortion.
Earlier that week, Trudeau appeared on CBC’s The Sunday Edition and told host Michael Enright that defending abortion trumped the rights of MPs to vote their conscience. Asked about his abortion edict, Trudeau said, “the rights that women have fought for over decades to be in control of their own bodies and to control their own reproductive health is not a right I’m going to brush aside to defend the freedom of speech or the freedom to vote a particular way for an MP.”
He reiterated all Liberal MPs must vote pro-abortion. “If they vote in favour of restricting women’s access to abortion, that’s taking away their rights. And that is something that we will not accept in the Liberal party.” He again claimed that abortion is in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which it isn’t.
Hughes told The Interim that no pro-lifer can support the Liberal Party with their votes or donations as long as Trudeau is leader.