In an interview with the CBC broadcast on Jan. 18, Prime Minister Stephen Harper indicated that he would go on opposing any legislative restrictions on abortion, even if the Conservatives were to win a majority of the seats in Parliament in the next federal election. “If you want to diminish the number of abortions,” he said, “you’ve got to change hearts and not laws.”
That argument is absurd. If Canada had no law on armed robbery, would Harper tell us that to diminish the number of bank heists, we must change hearts and not laws? Certainly not: He would insist upon the immediate enactment of tough laws on armed robbery for the protection of law-abiding Canadians.
Thanks to the 1988 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in Morgentaler, Canada has no law to protect the lives of children in the womb. The annual death toll from abortion in Canada is close to 100,000 babies. It is shameful that Harper will not sanction the enactment of any law to curb this national calamity.
It’s not that most Canadians are happy with the status quo on abortion. To the contrary, AngusReid found last year that only 30 per cent of a representative national sample of Canadians believe that the law should permit women to have an abortion “at any time during their pregnancy with no restrictions whatsoever.”
Here we see a disjunction between the people and their representatives in Parliament. While the great majority of Canadians would be receptive to at least some restrictions on abortion, most of our Parliamentarians support, or at least condone, a legal vacuum that permits a woman to have her baby aborted for any reason and at any time during a pregnancy right up to the moment of birth.
To make matters worse, there is a similar moral divide between the people of Canada and their provincial legislators. In this same AngusReid poll, 79 per cent of Canadians agreed that provincial health-care workers should be required “to offer information about alternatives to abortion, such as adoption, counseling for pregnant women, etc., to all women as soon as they notify them of their pregnancy?” Yet no province has enacted any such legal requirement.
Canadians and their political representatives have also been sharply divided on the issue of so-called gay marriage. For example, in 2005, the Environics Research Group found in a poll conducted for the CBC that 52 per cent of Canadians opposed a bill then under debate in Parliament to change the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Only 44 per cent supported the legislation. Regardless, Parliament passed the bill on a vote by a margin of 158 to 133.
Former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein stood with the minority of Canadian legislators who opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage. In response to the ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Marriage Reference which suggested that homosexuals have an equality (?) right to same-sex marriage, he called upon the federal government to allow Canadians to decide the matter in a referendum.
Former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin rejected the proposal. And so did then Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, who accused Klein of “trying to do an end-run around the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” That’s a common ploy by politicians to justify defiance of the people. After 63 per cent of the voters of Saskatchewan backed a proposal to end abortion funding in a provincial referendum in 1991, the province’s NDP government refused to abide by the outcome on the ground that defunding abortion would violate the equality rights of women under the Charter.
These arguments are specious. Notwithstanding the arbitrary rulings of judicial activists on the Supreme Court of Canada, there is nothing in the Charter as originally understood to support the absurd notion that Canadians have constitutional rights to abortion and same-sex marriage.
Besides, in any genuine democracy, the people are the ultimate authority. But in Canada, alas, that is no longer the case. Instead of upholding government of the people, by the people and for the people, we Canadians have succumbed to the authoritarian rule of judicial activists and their servile minions in Parliament and the provincial legislatures.