Maurice Vellacott – Saskatoon-Wanuskewin (left), Wladyslaw Lizon – Mississauga-Cooksville (centre), and Leon Benoit – Vegreville-Wainwright (right).

On January 23, three Conservative MPs wrote a letter to RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson calling for a criminal investigation into the deaths of 491 babies born alive after abortions but left to die. The deaths occurred between 2000 and 2009.

Last Fall, the Run with Life blog reported that according to official mortality numbers from Statistics Canada, 491 babies were born alive during abortions and left to die for the decade from 2000 through 2009. According to numbers from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, another 199 babies were left to die after surviving abortions in 2010 and 2011.

Noting that the Criminal Code classifies a child as a human being after proceeding fully from the mother’s womb, three Conservative MPs are asking the RCMP to investigate the cases as possible homicides. Leon Benoit (Vegreville-Wainwright), Wladyslaw Lizon (Mississauga-Cooksville) and Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin) wrote in their letter that “based on Section 223(2) of the Criminal Code, there should be 491 homicide investigations or prosecutions in connection with these deaths.” Section 223(2) of the Criminal Code states: “A person commits homicide when he causes injury to a child before or during birth as a result of which the child dies after becoming a human being.”

Noting that the more recent CIHI numbers, the three MPs said, “This increase indicates that the killing of Canadian children may continue to grow if these apparent crimes are not investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted.”

The letter does not note the specific increase, but the left-to-die annual death toll has doubled from 49.1 babies per year  for the first decade of the 21st century to 99.5 over the past two years.

When the news that 491 babies born-alive were left to die was reported in November, Campaign Life Coalition wrote a letter to federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson demanding that the deaths be investigated.

Campaign Life Coalition issued a press release thanking Benoit, Lizon, and Vellacott for demanding an investigation into the matter. CLC national president Jim Hughes told The Interim, “this isn’t even abortion, the babies survived the abortion, proceeded from the mother’s womb, took a breath and were alive, but brutally and callously left to die.” He said the work of abortionists “desensitizes them to the point that they are willing to ignore the cries of an alive baby.”

Hughes said that “an investigation based on official Statistics Canada numbers into clear Criminal Code violations should be uncontroversial.” But the MPs’ letter raised a storm of protest from politicians and the press who misunderstood or misrepresented what its signatories were trying to accomplish.

The Canadian Press reported the three Tory MPs wanted “the RCMP to investigate any abortions performed after 19 weeks in Canada as possible homicides.” The Jan. 31, CP report, published in media outlets across the country including the CBC website and the Regina Leader Post, incorrectly said in the letter, “they say abortions performed at 20 weeks gestation or later breach Section 223 (2) of the Criminal Code and must be investigated as ‘possible murders’.” There was no mention in the article that babies were born alive and left to die.

Vellacott wrote a letter of clarification after the initial erroneous media coverage, saying “contrary to what some of the media have been reporting, my colleagues, Leon Benoit and Wladyslaw Lizon, and I did not ask the RCMP to investigate any/all abortions after 19 weeks as possible homicides.” He explained, “our request to the RCMP was not about the deaths of preborn children, but rather the deaths of  children who had already been born alive and who are, therefore, recognized as ‘human beings’ in Canadian law.”

Most other media followed the CP lead, as did opposition MPs.

NDP MP Megan Leslie (Halifax) rose in the House to condemn the MPs on Jan. 31. “These conservatives are trying to get the RCMP to investigate abortions as murder,” Leslie, the party’s deputy leader, said. “Will the Prime Minister make it clear that he and his government understand that abortion is not murder?”

NDP women’s issues critic Niki Ashton (Churchill) castigated Benoit, Lizon, and Vellacott for wanting to re-open the abortion issue and Prime Minister Stephen Harper for letting them. On Feb. 1, she rose in the House of Commons to complain, “yesterday Canadian women were horrified to read a letter from three Conservative members of Parliament who equate abortion with murder. The Prime Minister claims that he does not want the abortion debate to be reopened, yet time and time again members of his caucus put this issue on the front page.”

Ashton insisted that “a woman’s right to choose is not up for debate in Canada, directly or otherwise. Will the Prime Minister clearly tell his caucus that abortion is not murder?”

Harper rose in the House to declare: “All members of this House, whether they agree with it or not, understand that abortion is legal in Canada and this government, myself included, have made it very clear that the government does not intend to change the law in this regard.” A spokesman for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson also insisted that no investigation was necessary because “abortion is legal in Canada.”

Hughes responded to the government’s response: “Is this government’s support for abortion so strong that they’re now going to turn a blind eye to documented cases that suggest infanticide?”

On Feb. 10, the Toronto Sun ran a column by the Sun chain’s lead editorial writer, Mark Bonokowski, who complained the trio of MPs “bushwhacked” the Prime Minister by raising the issue of abortion. Bonokoski said they should be “frog-marched into a private meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and come out either severely censured or kicked out of the party to sit as independents.”

Bonokoski, who ran as a candidate for the Canadian Alliance in 2000, said Benoit, Lizon, and Vellacott were “fully aware that Harper has repeatedly stated the abortion debate was closed” and their letter was “backstabbing, plain and simple.” Bonokoski attacked the three MPs as “uneducated in that law and disrespectful of their party’s stand.” The columnist said they should be forced from caucus, not for opposing abortion, but “backstabbing, stupidity and the abuse of their perceived power.”

Faye Sonier, legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, wrote on the EFC’s Activate CFPL blog that Bonokoski’s views were uninformed. She said Bonokoski, “formed and shared outrageous opinions on the actions of three MPs and Canadian abortion law seemingly without having read the MPs’ request to the RCMP, the relevant provisions of the Criminal Code or the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on abortion.”

CLC’s Hughes said, “the Canadian public is being left in the dark by politicians and a media that refuses to cover the scandalous outcomes of abortion.” He noted that early in the pro-life movement that they warned abortion would lead to infanticide. Nor is this the first time the issue has come to light in Canada. Hughes noted that in 1999 Alberta Report exposed the fact 11 babies were killed after they survived late-term eugenic abortions at Calgary Foothills Hospital. A police investigation exonerated the hospital, but Alberta Pro-Life at the time said it was a phony investigation and joined MP Jason Kenney in calling for the provincial attorney general to look into every late-term abortion to see if Section 223(2) of the Criminal Code was being violated.