The National Action Committee on the Status of Women has set up a new subcommittee formed specifically “to help raise the profile of the abortion rights struggle.” NAC receives large government grants. The December issue of NAC’s Feminist Action newsletter announced a nation-wide campaign to “expose the injustice of the existing abortion legislation,” centering around testimonies of women about their abortion experiences. A letter-writing campaign to Justice Minister John Crosbie is to aim for repeal of the 1969 abortion law.
Toronto Sun columnist Lorrie Goldstein wondered out loud on January 7, 1986, whether Ontario Labour Minister Bill Wrye would go ahead with placing “sexual orientation” under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Typically enough, the column’s title reflected the contents: “Can Grits take gay rights heat?” For Goldstein – and many other media people – the only question is: can the government bring it off? and not: is it right or wrong? Goldstein predicted that a number of Grit cabinet ministers “will hit the roof if they are confronted with the idea of furthering homosexual rights.”
According to executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Alan Borovoy, Ontario has a constitutional responsibility to provide women “with equal access” to abortions under the Charter of Rights and Freedom. On February 5, 1986, he addressed the Legislature’s Justice Committee which is studying ways to make Ontario laws conform with the equality provision (Section 15) of the Charter.
Borovoy proposed that more hospitals be forced to have abortion committees (see January Interim article “Political Posturing and pro-life,” p. 11, for similar views by others) and that accreditation regulations for abortion clinics be loosened.
In 1985 Borovoy, who is a Morgentaler supporter, also submitted a brief objecting to additional funding for Catholic schools and one demanding that all religion courses in public schools be dropped. He is an acquaintance of the Attorney General, Ian Scott, who, in 1981, on behalf of the CCLA, sought to intervene in favour of Body Politic, the homosexual newspaper whose case was then before the Court.
On January 23, 1986, the House of Commons passed a new divorce bill. The package of bills is designed to make divorce quicker, cheaper and easier to get. The waiting period for uncontested divorces has been cut from three to one year. Needless to say, the measure has been hailed as another progressive step forward.
Unions seek support
A large, half-page advertisement in the Globe and Mail of December 24, 1985, asked for support of the unions’ right to use union dues in any way they like. Stated the advertisement, headed “Christmas in July?”:
“Instead, they say unions should be selfish. They say unions should not use dues for anything except protecting their own members on the job, and only on the job.”
The advertisement was an obvious response to the legal challenge launched by Haileybury College teacher Mervyn Lavigne, objecting to the indiscriminate use of union dues – such as for abortion. (See February, 1986, Interim.)
The advertisement listed the names of 48 people, 24 unionists and 24 others. Among the latter were Bishops Sherlock, de Roo, Proulx and Father Michael Ryan (London, Ontario) and also six well-known pro-abortion feminists and feminist organizations.
Meanwhile, another challenge, similar to the Lavigne one, has been launched by Charles Baldwin, a prison guard in Vancouver. Baldwin, too, argues that he should not be compelled to give union dues to groups whose aim he opposes.
Labour spokesmen such as Art Kube, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, says the Baldwin and Lavigne cases represent a right-wing attack on labour’s long-standing support of the N.D.P.