Twenty-five years after the criminal act of abortion was given a government stamp of legality by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Justice Minister John Turner, the Liberals met in Ottawa at their biennial Convention. A number of pro-life Liberals became delegates for the mid-May convention in order to remind fellow Liberals of the country’s 25 year legacy of abortion.
These same delegates also came to fight the push for strong policy resolutions in favour of legalized euthanasia and same-sex benefits.
Dr. John Wilson, former chief of cardiology at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, spoke forcefully from his many years of professional expertise, pointing out that he had never been asked by a single patient to end that patient’s life. He asked the delegates to continue their support of doctors as healers and not to turn them into killers. His remarks were crucial in defeating a resolution put forward by the Young Liberals calling for the legalization of doctor-assisted suicide. A similar motion, put forward by the Calgary West Federal Riding Association that asked the Liberal Party of Canada to enact immediate legislation endorsing assisted suicide was also defeated.
On Saturday afternoon, following an accountability session with the leader and the cabinet ministers, those seeking executive office gave their speeches. Jim Barnes, a long-time Liberal and well-known pro-life activist, ran for the position of party President. He suggested to the delegates that they all remembered where they were when Paul Henderson scored that goal to end all goals, but how many remembered where they were on May 14, 1969.
“That day also was a momentous date in Canadian history,” he remarked. He asked delegates to “look around at the youth delegates and to applaud their energy, their courage, their optimism, their genuine desire to work at making the world a better place. We’re glad that they were born, then, or better still, have them opt for a self-determined ‘death with dignity.’ Are we as a party intent on pushing for the legalization of more killing based on the tears of Svend Robinson? Who is this mysterious doctor of mercy who killed Sue Rodriguez? He is so proud of what he did that he won’t even come forward to identify himself. How can we expect the family unit to be healthy when the very lives of its members are threatened not only before birth but also before their natural death?”
Mr. Barnes also expressed his sadness at the fact that not a single Member of Parliament defended the time-honoured tradition of saying the Lord’s Prayer at the opening of Parliament each morning “in a country that still asks God’s blessing in our national anthem.”
He ended his speech by asking the delegates to pray for Mr. Chrétien and all Members of Parliament so that God would “give them the strength and courage to embrace generously the serious task he has given them and to carry out tirelessly their role of service to their fellow man.” He called on Liberals “to work together so that the next 25 year legacy of the Liberal Party would be one marked by service, generosity, courage, respect for life and the material and spiritual betterment of each human being.”
Anyone who has ever attended a political convention is well aware of the time-honoured practice of leafleting all the major convention hotels. This practice was not lost on the pro-life groups of the Ottawa area. Guests of the Chateau Laurier, the Westin, Minto Place and the Albert at Bay received under their doors a copy of the She’s a Child flyer as well as the Nobody Visits These Graves fact sheet.
Sunday morning proved to be the most volatile of the entire convention. The Young Liberals were hoping to pass resolutions eliminating discrimination against homosexuals and, more importantly, recognizing same-sex marriages and common-law relationships.
The first part of the resolution passed easily, while the second part was defeated by a better than 2 to 1 margin.
Pro-lifers left the convention with renewed hope. Though Jim Barnes received just under five per cent of the vote for party president, he was able to deliver an excellent pro-life message. Delegates responded to this challenge by defeating euthanasia resolutions and soundly defeating a resolution seeking to give legal recognition to same-sex marriages.
Delegates were given an opportunity to be educated in the quiet of their hotel suites through the “She’s a Child” newspaper and the “Nobody Visits These Graves” handout. Those who visited Parliament Hill saw the crosses and witnessed the vigil that marked 25 years of abortion in Canada.