Williams promises baby bonus

JOHN’S – As part of the Progressive Conservative re-election campaign, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams says if he is re-elected, he will provide a financial incentive for women to have more children in an effort to arrest the province’s sagging birthrate. In 2004, there were 4,488 births in the province, compared to 8,929 in 1983. Each year, about 850 abortions are committed in the province that has a population of 505,000. Saying that “the province cannot afford to have its population shrink,” Williams is promising parents $1,000 if they give birth to or adopt a child. The program is expected to cost the provincial treasury $4.5 million. A Conservative government would also simplify the adoption process, invest in prenatal care and extend parental leave benefits. Newfoundland’s Right to Life Association has applauded the announcement as a positive step toward “rebuilding our population and strengthening our communities.” But is also calling on Williams to go further in supporting families that choose to keep their babies, rather than abort them.

Prorogued Parliament kills age of consent bill

OTTAWA – When Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament on Sept. 14, he effectively killed C-22, theAge of Protection Act, the Conservative government’s age of consent bill that had been stalled in the Liberal-dominated Senate since the spring. In May, Parliament passed a law increasing the age of consent from 14 to 16, with a “near-in-age” exception for teens who are within five years of age. The bill would not have changed the age of consent for anal sex, which would have remained at 18. The bill only passed when the NDP changed its mind about the legislation after backroom negotiations overturned the Speaker of the House’s verdict that there were more MPs opposed to the bill during the voice vote than were in favour. Canadians Addressing Sexual Exploitation has been urging the public to contact Senators to pass the legislation in a last ditch attempt before the new session of Parliament begins. CASE is also calling upon the government to re-introduce the legislation if it does not end up passing in the Senate by Oct. 16.

Adoptive and biological parents not equal: court

OTTAWA – The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that Patti Tomasson of British Columbia was not entitled to 15 additional weeks of employment insurance benefits following the adoption of her daughters, Hannah, 8, and Sarah, 3, because she had not endured the physiological burdens of pregnancy and childbirth. Federal employment insurance grants parents 35 weeks of paid leave, but biological parents can combine parental and maternity benefits for a total of 50 weeks’ leave. Justice Marc Nadon said, “Exact parity between biological and adoptive mother would result, in my view, in discrimination against biological mothers.” Tomasson said Justice Nadon’s decision discriminated against her children due to their status as adopted children. She is appealing the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.