On Nov. 24, three Conservative MPs addressed the Save Our Charities rally on Parliament Hill to oppose Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s threat to strip crisis pregnancy centres and other pro-life organizations of their charitable tax status.
During the federal election, on page four of the Liberal Party platform, as part of their promise to Build Back Better after the COVID pandemic, Trudeau said he would take away charitable tax status for pro-life groups that spread “misinformation” about abortion, singling out crisis pregnancy centres that help women in difficult circumstances to carry their babies to term. The platform said, “anti-choice organizations are actively working to spread misinformation about abortion, putting the health and safety of young people and vulnerable women at risk.” The Liberals said if re-elected, a Trudeau government would “no longer provide charity status to anti-abortion organizations (for example, Crisis Pregnancy Centers) that provide dishonest counseling to women about their rights and about the options available to them at all stages of the pregnancy.”
Campaign Life Coalition campaigns manager David Cooke said that the Trudeau Liberals offered no evidence that pro-life groups are endangering women or providing false information. He said that pro-abortion politicians and activists view any pro-life activity as threatening to the abortion industry and therefore seek to silence those voices. Pro-life groups say they expect donors to be less generous without the benefit of a charitable tax receipt.
Campaign Life Coalition hastily organized the Save Our Charities rally to coincide with the first week Parliament resumed. Trudeau called an election in August which prorogued Parliament and then did not reconvene the House of Commons until more than two months after the Sept. 20 election.
It is not known how the government will make the tax status change or how it will define misinformation. It could be done without a vote in Parliament, much like the government changed eligibility rules for the Summer Jobs Program that required recipients of student wage subsidies to attest that they supported abortion.
MP Cathay Wagantall (Yorkton-Melville) said Trudeau’s actions were designed to limit women’s choice by denying them the services of pregnancy care centres that would reduce the demand for abortion. “So, once again, we have a Prime Minister here who is pre-determining what people’s outcomes can be, which is entirely wrong,” she told the rally. Wagantall said, “I do not agree with this Prime Minister, or his government, pre-determining who can get what kind of help when they are truly seeking support to be able to carry their babies forward.”
Wagantall also said it was just another way Canadians’ freedoms are “being challenged on so many levels.”
MP Arnold Viersen (Peace River–Westlock) chastised Trudeau for politicizing charitable status, calling it “unacceptable.” He said, “You should not have to agree with all the government’s positions in order to get charitable status in this country.” He said it would create a terrible precedent if Trudeau went through with the policy.
Viersen said, “We will work hard to protect our charitable status. Doesn’t matter whether it’s your favourite summer camp, your local church community, your local hospital, whichever one of your charities is your favourite charity, we will work hard to protect that.” He said he will be joined by other pro-life MPs “fighting this threat to charitable status,” vowing, “We’ll fight that tooth and nail in the House of Commons.”
MP Leslyn Lewis (Haldimand-Norfolk) said, “What our government is doing is just wrong.”
Lewis said she would send a letter to Trudeau to invite him to the Haldimand Pregnancy Care and Family Centre in Dunnville, Ont., just south of Hamilton. Lewis said she was there and saw first-hand the life-affirming work they do with vulnerable mothers. “I witnessed parents and families learning about nutrition, good nutritional values, how to do homework with their children, how to make sure that their children have a balanced life that incorporates activities and health and wellness.”
Carol Butler, executive director of Haldimand Pregnancy Care and Family Centre, also spoke at the rally. She said, “We serve unconditionally anyone who needs our programmes and our services,” with pre- and post-natal support, including those who have suffered miscarriage, early infant loss, and post-abortion trauma. Butler said, “We also offer material support with baby clothes, formula, and food supplies for moms, and some equipment, thanks to the generosity of our community,” and “For those struggling financially, this is very much appreciated by them.”
Butler said the centre ran programs helping more than 500 individuals this year and that they distributed 4500 baby-care items to mothers in need.
She said, “There have been so many lies and false information about pregnancy centers over these last number of years.”
Butler also invited Trudeau to see for himself “what we do to support the vulnerable people in our communities.” She said, “Before taking another step towards trying to revoke the charity status of our centres across the country, we’re asking Mr. Trudeau to come and find out more about who we are and what we do. We’re asking Mr. Trudeau to do his own research and not just listen to those who don’t like us, spread hate, or don’t believe in us helping our fellow citizens and communities across Canada.”
Butler was referencing recent papers by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada which claim that pregnancy care centres mislead women about fetal development, the legal status of abortion, and their own intentions of trying to save babies and mothers from abortion. The ARCC claims that pregnancy centres often misrepresent they that offer abortion services or hide their religious affiliation. Numerous crisis pregnancy care centres have responded that they are open about their intentions and that the abortion advocacy group claims the scientific evidence of prenatal development is misleading when it is, indeed, factual.
During the rally, CLC delivered petitions with more than 14,000 signatures to the MPs. The petition urged all federally elected politicians to oppose any bill, motion, or regulatory policy that seeks to penalize pregnancy centers and other pro-life organizations in our country.