The year 1967 was a special one as Canadians united to commemorate our nation’s 100th birthday. It was a time to celebrate and take pride in our successes and the men and women who worked together toward a common goal: to make Canada a great nation. But 1967 was also a time for change – change that would bring Canada a new and modern style of politics. Thus, the next year, in 1968 Canadians voted Pierre Elliot Trudeau in as our new Prime Minister – a prime minister who drove sports cars and charmed women, definitely bringing a modern flair to politics. But the modern prime minister brought with him modern social policies that led to easing federal abortion, divorce, and homosexuality laws. He believed that the “state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.” Now, 50 years later and approaching our nation’s 150th birthday, the modern prime minister’s son is going even further. In the 150 years of the existence of the Dominion of Canada, our social policies have deteriorated drastically, and it will require a great deal of hard work and dedicated individuals to bring back the Christian laws we have rejected.
When Canada became a country in 1867, we were a nation founded on Christian principles. The Fathers of Confederation and our first prime minister, John A. MacDonald, saw the value of the lives of preborn babies and protected them under the law. The law in 1869 threatened that a doctor or anyone who assisted a woman to obtain an abortion could be sentenced for up to life imprisonment, and even a woman herself could be convicted and sentenced to two years. This law was not merely on paper – authorities took abortion seriously and upheld this law strictly. For example, in 1879, Emily Stowe, the second woman licensed to practice medicine in Canada, used drugs to perform an abortion on a young patient. Stowe was charged and, although she was eventually acquitted, her trial was long and much publicized. Abortion was strictly forbidden at this time and our leaders viewed it as a serious crime. In 1892, when Canada’s first Criminal Code was enacted, it also prohibited abortion; abortion as well as the selling and advertising of contraception were illegal.
However, despite the seriousness with which authorities viewed abortion in the first years of Confederation, attitudes changed and by the 1960s, doctors were rarely convicted anymore. In 1969, Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government passed an amendment to the Criminal Code that allowed abortion to be carried out in hospitals, as long as the pregnancy was confirmed by the hospital’s Therapeutic Abortion Committee to endanger the life or health of the mother. This amendment left the preborn largely unprotected, as abortions were much easier to obtain, and most women who wanted an abortion were approved.
However, the worst was not yet over. In 1988, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that the abortion law violated section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which defended a woman’s right to “life, liberty and security of person.” Chief Justice Brian Dickinson felt that “forcing a woman … to carry a foetus to term … is a profound interference with a woman’s body and thus a violation of her security of person.” On Jan. 28, the Court struck the abortion law down, leaving Parliament responsible for enacting a new law. Because no other law has been passed to replace the original, abortion has been legal, publicly funded, and readily available ever since.
Today, abortion is a very controversial issue about which both sides of the debate have strong feelings. However, although private member’s bills have been introduced, none have become law and our governments continue to avoid bringing the issue back to Parliament. Canada remains one of only three countries worldwide that allow abortion with no legal restrictions. It is treated as any medical procedure and is funded by the government. Women can obtain an abortion at any time, regardless of the baby’s age, whether he or she is healthy, and whether the father agrees. Preborn children have no constitutional rights, because these rights begin only at live birth. And now, with our current Liberal government under Justin Trudeau, the situation is unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future.
There are many different pro-life groups in Canada working to protect the preborn. They have presented petitions to politicians, such as the Petition of One Million in 1975, a campaign that raised over a million signatures on a petition against abortion. They have organized public protests to try to influence both the public and the government, such as the National March for Life held each year in Ottawa. They have organized letter-writing campaigns to show our leaders the evils of abortion and try to influence their views. They have worked to support pro-life members of Parliament and get new pro-life MPs elected. But, despite all of the work of pro-life groups, abortion is still legal. Western culture is largely pro-abortion, and without becoming re-Christianized, it will be very difficult to change Canada’s abortion law.
However, although the situation does not look promising, pro-life organizations should not lose hope. Even if their efforts only touch a few hearts, it is still a success.
The most important thing we can do is to pray. All the efforts of pro-life organizations and individuals will not help if it is not blessed by God. We read in God’s Word, “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” (Ps. 127.1) Without God’s blessing, nothing we do will prosper, and therefore we need to pray for His blessing on the pro-life work we do, because only God can change the hearts of our politicians to protect life.
Canada’s laws have changed drastically since Confederation. 150 years ago, abortion was illegal and the prime minister believed abortion “saps the very life blood of the nation.” Now, it is legal with no restrictions, and the Prime Minister promises that “the Liberal Party will not vote against a woman’s right to choose” to kill her baby. When Canada became a country, we were a Christian nation founded on biblical principles. Now, society has rejected God’s Word and continues to allow the abortion of thousands of tiny gifts of God.
Adrianna Byers won first place in the Fr. Ted Colleton Essay contest sponsored by Niagara Right to Life and presented by The Interim. She is in Grade 12 at Rehoboth Christian School in Otterville, Ont.