Green Party leader Elizabeth May talks to CBC host Vassy Kapelos.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May talks to CBC host Vassy Kapelos.

Immediately following an interview with the CBC’s Vassy Kapelos in which Green Party leader Elizabeth May said she would not stifle a debate on abortion, she was contradicted by her party which insisted that no Green MPs would be reopening the debate.

On Sept. 9, May said that while she believes “a woman has a right to a safe, legal abortion,” she does not have the authority as party leader to whip her caucus to prevent any of them from introducing a private member’s bill or motion on the topic.

Asked about abortion, May replied: “I could talk to them. I could try to dissuade them. I could say it would be unfortunate … but I don’t have the power as leader of the Green Party to whip votes, nor do I have the power to silence an MP.” She also said, “And frankly, I think that’s a good thing because democracy will be healthier when constituents know that their MP works for them and not their party leader.”

After her remarks became public, the Green Party issued a statement contradicting their leader, saying there was “zero chance” an elected Green MP would seek to limit or regulate abortion. Indeed, the statement indicated no Green MP would want to.

Green Party press secretary Rosie Emery said in the press release, “It is, and always has been, the Green Party of Canada’s policy that all women must have timely access to safe, legal abortions.” Emery added: “Although the leader does not have the power to whip votes, all Green Party members of Parliament must endorse the Green Party’s values, including a firm support of a woman’s right to choose. There is zero chance an elected representative of our party will ever reopen the abortion debate.” Emery explained that candidates who do not “wholeheartedly agree that the abortion debate is closed in Canada” during the vetting process for candidates, “are not allowed to run.”

In a later interview with CTV, May said, “a Green Party candidate or MP is never going to be saying we need to retreat on abortion rights because we simply wouldn’t have a candidate approved who was that strongly opposed to a core value with the Green Party.” Yet, she also insisted she would not be a “dictator,” saying, “We’re (a party) that believes very strongly that backrooms of political parties are exerting far too much control over what goes on in the House of Commons and are turning Members of Parliament into people who check their brains at the door. It’s very anti-democratic.”

In 2014, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said no one who held pro-life views would be allowed to run for the party in the next general election, but no other party had publicly committed to blocking pro-lifers from becoming candidates until the Greens issued the statement. The CBC contacted the NDP to find out if they allow pro-lifers to run, and NDP spokesperson Melanie Richer confirmed that candidate must be pro-abortion in order to run for the party: “There’s no room in the NDP caucus for those who don’t support a woman’s right to choose.”

May also told the CBC that she has long held that she supports abortion: “I’ve never wavered in that position since I was, like, eight years old and realized what was going on when I heard my mother arguing with people about the issue.” But in a 2006 by-election contest, she said “I don’t think a woman has a frivolous right to choose” although she also said, “I don’t want a desperate woman to die in an illegal abortion.” Her ambiguous statements led feminist Judy Rebick to renounce her support for May and the Green Party. In 2011, she told theGeorgia Straightnewspaper in British Columbia that she felt her position has been “misreported” and clarified that while she supports abortion, she also wanted social programs for women to be able to choose to keep their babies. She described her position as “mixed and nuanced” although she also stated, “there’s absolutely no wiggle room on maintaining the right of women in this country to safe and legal abortions.”

As an MP, she has voted against pro-life initiatives in the House of Commons, including in 2012 when she voted against Stephen Woodworth’s motion to appoint a committee to study when human life begins and the legal implications of those findings.

In 2016, May told Canadian Christianitythat she hopes to become an Anglican minister after she’s finished her career in politics. During the CBC interview May was asked who was her personal hero and she replied “Jesus Christ. Sorry that’s my answer.” She later apologized for her answer saying that in an “an inclusive and all embracing society,” she should not have been so forthright.

Campaign Life Coalition national president Jeff Gunnarson said, “if someone’s personal hero is Jesus Christ, they should stand up for Christian principles of protecting the vulnerable and oppose the killing of innocent human beings.”