14. UN condemns Vatican for Catholic teaching on abortion
On January 31, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report castigating the Vatican for its moral teachings. The committee, which provides oversight to the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child, focused on the Catholic Church’s handling of cases of abuse of children by priests, but in its 16-page report it also called upon the Vatican to reconsider its moral teachings on abortion, contraception, family, and homosexuality. Pro-life leaders said that neither the UN’s competence nor authority extends to telling any religion what its moral teachings should be.
13. Ottawa promotes maternal health sans abortion
Prime Minister Stephen Harper hosted the Summit on Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (MNCH) in Toronto May 28-30, with more than 300 representatives of international agencies, foreign governments, and non-government organizations. It was a continuation of his 2010 Muskoka initiative to reduce maternal and infant morbidity. Again Harper insisted that abortion not be part of maternal health, noting, “We’re trying to rally a broad consensus behind what we’re doing, and you can’t rally a consensus on that issue (of abortion).” However, funding for family planning including contraception will be part of the maternal health program that will focus on vaccinations, nutrition programs, trained birthing attendants to ensure safe delivery of babies, and better data in terms of tracking births and deaths.
12. TWU law school creates controversy
The provincial law societies in Ontario and Nova Scotia refused to recognize Langley, B.C.-based Trinity Western University’s law school credentials because the deem the university’s “Community Covenant” which requires students to sign a code of behaviour pledge to forego sex outside marriage, including homosexual activity, as “homophobic.” In June, the B.C. Law Society asked the province to revoke TWU’s law school accreditation. TWU has challenged the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society and Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario) in court to have their graduates law degrees recognized. They say that it is a private institution whose students and staff voluntarily choose to abide by the Christian-based Community Covenant. The Nova Scotia case will be heard in December and Ontario case in January.
11. Daycare vs. family friendly taxes
In October the federal NDP and Conservatives indicated that they have two different visions of how to court the votes of parents in the 2015 federal election. The NDP says it will implement a national $15-a-day daycare scheme in cooperation with the provinces modeled on the Quebec universal daycare program that the province is now reconsidering because it is expensive and doesn’t fulfill its goal of improving educational outcomes. The Conservatives have announced they will increase the Universal Child Benefit in their next federal budget by increasing payments from $100 a month to $160 a month for children up to 7, and expand the UBC to children between 7 and 17 with a $60-a-month benefit. The Harper government is also introducing income-splitting to help families in which one spouse stays at home or makes significantly less than the other.
10. OECTA participates in Pride
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, the provincial union for Catholic teachers, formally participated in the World Pride Parade in Toronto in June. In March OECTA’s annual general meeting supported the idea of individual teachers volunteering their participation in the parade. There was no official OECTA float but as many as 100 members marched behind the official union banner. The parade routinely features nudity and other lewd behaviour. Teaches and parents spoke out about OECTA’s participation, with Michael MacDonald, religion department head at Corpus Christi Secondary School in Burlington, Ont., quoted in the Catholic Register saying “this event acclaims and commemorates the increasing hostility in the secular world towards Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.” The York separate board passed a motion asking OECTA to recant its support of the pride parade while the Waterloo Catholic board affirmed the “right” of OECTA to participate.
9. Canadian Medical Association euthanasia shift
In August, the Canadian Medical Association voted to change the organization’s policy on euthanasia. The CMA now “supports the right of all physicians, within the bounds of existing legislation, to follow their conscience when deciding whether to provide medical aid in dying.” The CMA had previously opposed euthanasia, with its 2007 policy unambiguously stating: “Canadian physicians should not participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide.” The clear directive “should not participate in euthanasia and assisted suicide” has been softened to “the CMA believes that physicians should not” take part in euthanasia unless it is legal. The change was presented as respecting the conscience rights of physicians. According to its own consultation, 71 per cent of physicians oppose taking part in an assisted suicide, yet it seems that the CMA leadership took the 91 per cent support for conscience protection as license to liberalize its position on euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide.
8. Doctors condemned for refusing prescriptions for birth control
In both Calgary and Ottawa family doctors were criticized for refusing to prescribe birth control pills to patients. In June, Dr. Chantal Berry of Calgay was criticized on Facebook by a patient upset about a sign in the walk-in clinic where Dr. Berry works saying “the physician on duty today will not prescribe the birth control pill.”`Joan Chand’oiseau complained that the sign contained “overt judgment of my choices.” Earlier in the year, three Ottawa doctors faced a backlash over refusing to prescribe birth control. Both the Alberta and Ontario college of physicians and surgeons recognize a doctor’s conscience rights in regard to contraception, although the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons is reviewing its policy.
7. Government prostitution bill passes
In December 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Criminal Code restrictions on prostitution and told the federal government it had one year to come up with a new law on prostitution. The Conservative government modeled its legislation on the so-called Nordic Model which focuses on the men who use prostitutes, but also stiffened penalties for trafficking and engaging in prostitution near children. After a summer of hearing from experts on all side, including sex workers who opposed the government’s bill because they wanted no restrictions whatsoever, Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, passed Parliament 156-124 on a party-line vote (Conservatives in favour, the opposition against) on Oct. 6 and passed the Senate on Nov. 4. The Supreme Court could still strike down the law if the justices do not see it abiding by its direction to pass a law that protects the security of the person of would-be prostitutes.
6. National March for Life continues to grow
In January, Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced a decision would not be made on importing the abortion drug RU-486. The National March for Life committee decided that the theme for 2015 would be RU-4Life? The National March for Life attracted a record 25,000 pro-lifers. Regional marches attracted about 10,000 more people. The marches continue to grow and garner increased media attention.
5. Belgium allows euthanasia for children
Belgium, which legalized euthanasia in 2002, passed a law to approve euthanasia for children. The measure permits any child with the “capacity of discernment” can request a lethal injection or concoction of barbiturate drugs with the consent of their parents if they “in a hopeless medical situation of constant and unbearable suffering.” The law passed overwhelmingly in both the Senate (50-17) and Chamber of Representatives (86-44) and was opposed by religious groups, the Christian Democratic opposition, and the Council of Europe human rights group. Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has noted that so-called safeguards are routinely abused and that the new law is not about ending suffering for children with disabilities, but about expanding the “categories that are eligible for” euthanasia.
4. Synod confusion on Catholic moral teaching
The Oct. 5-19 Extraordinary Synod on the Family of Catholic Bishops at the Vatican and the ensuing report that was released elicited mixed reactions among Catholics and pro-family leaders. Critics said that the discussions led to confusion over Catholic moral teaching regarding family life and sexuality, while those who hope to see the Catholic Church “modernize” were elated with early indications that Pope Francis would reopen dialogue regarding Church moral teaching in particular with an eye to permitting divorced and remarried individuals and practicing homosexuals to receive communion. While the process will continue throughout the next year and culminate with the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops next Fall and the document from the extraordinary synod meant as a guide for further discussion, critics say that language about “welcoming” individuals who are not living in accordance to Catholic teaching will either set the stage for revolutionary changes in doctrine or disappoint many dissidents who believe they are going to be welcomed back into the Church. The fact is the story is far from over although the seeds for a battle over Catholic moral teaching and how it will impact the Church’s leadership on life and family have been sewn.
In the Spring, the Morgentaler abortuary in Fredericton, N.B., said they would close later in the year without taxpayer funding. The Liberal Party of N.B. changed party policy and vowed to increase abortion access in the province, which may or may not include eliminating the rule that abortions had to be carried out in hospitals with the approval of a second doctor which prevented private facilities from getting taxpayer funding. Abortion became a provincial election in September when Campaign Life Coalition Youth and the Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform distributed pamphlets attacking Liberal leader Brian Gallant for wanting to increase abortion access. The pamphlets garnered widespread media attention and the issue of abortion was brought up during one of the leaders’ debates. The Liberals won, but with a smaller majority than was expected. Two months after assuming office, Gallant had yet to act on abortion.
2. Quebec permits doctor-assisted suicide
When the Parti Quebecois government of Pauline Marois called an election in February, it provided hope to anti-euthanasia activists and those in the disabilities community that Bill 52, which would effectively legalize doctor-assisted suicide by not providing the prosecution to enforce the Criminal Code prohibitions on euthanasia and assisted-suicide, would be scuttled. When the Liberals were unexpectedly elected in April, it was thought that Bill 52 would not be resurrected. But in June, the new Liberal government of Philippe Couillard passed an unamended Bill 52 by 94-22 vote in the National Assembly. Critics worry that it will lead to suicide tourism in Canada or worse; other provinces might follow suit and effectively tolerate euthanasia by not enforcing the federal law. The law is being challenged by two groups in the Superior Court of Quebec, Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance Against Euthanasia, who say the law is unconstitutional as criminal law is defined by the federal government. The issue might be moot if the Supreme Court of Canada, which heard the Carter case in October, throws out the Criminal Code restrictions. The Supreme Court ruling is expected next Spring.
1. Justin Trudeau bans pro-lifers from Liberal Party
In May, Justin Trudeau announced that from now on, all Liberal Party candidates would support abortion, saying it was a Charter value the Liberals were committed to upholding. He indicated that the policy would apply only to new candidates while that sitting MPs would still be allowed to vote their conscience but flip-flopped on that by the end of the month. He reiterated numerous times throughout the year his position that “reproductive rights” are not to be compromised on by politicians. Religious and pro-life leaders condemned the leader’s new policy, with Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins saying it would prevent faithful Catholics from running for the party if the directive stood. In September, seven pro-life former Liberal MPs wrote an open letter to Trudeau expressing their disappointment at his dictatorial position, a position at odds with the big tent philosophy of both his predecessor, Jean Chretien, and Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre. Trudeau responded to the letter by saying “The days when old men get to decide what a woman does with her body are long gone. Times have changed for the better.” Gar Knutson, a former MP, was forced to abandon his return to elected politics because of his pro-life views. Lawrence MacAulay (Cardigan), a long-time pro-life Liberal MP, announced he would abide the new party diktat and not vote pro-life anymore.