Jean Chretien has been put on notice that he is not going to be able to hide his pro-abortion record during his run for the Liberal party leadership. Even before announcing his candidacy Jean Chretien has encountered pro-life picketers protesting his views on abortion. At Chretien’s first Toronto appearance of the year on January 12, some 40 pro-life people picketed as Chretien was greeted by about three hundred Liberals at a “meet Chretien” event in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough.
Chretien has been able to convince a number of people that he is either pro-life or sympathetic to the pro-life movement. He has done this by giving evasive answers to questions about abortion. He tells those who ask that, of course he is opposed to abortion, he is one of thirteen children. In some settings his answers have been flippant and bordering on the sacrilegious. He has made speeches dealing with abortion in which he has reminded listeners that his initials are “J.C.” and that his mother’s name is Mary, as proof of his Christian conviction.
The most startling aspect of the event was that they key organizers included two Liberal MPs from Scarborough who have in the past been identified as pro-life. Jim Karygiannis from Scarborough-Agincourt and Derek Lee from Scarborough-Rouge River have both been identified by Campaign Life Coalition as pro-life and both have taken a pro-life stand in the House of Commons. Karygiannis is known to defend his decision to support Chretien on the basis that one must work from the inside. During his remarks at the meeting, Karygiannis lead the singing of “Happy Birthday” and told the crowd he would call Chretien “boss” from now on.
The picket featured signs saying “Mr. Chretien: real Christians don’t support abortion” and “No more pro-abortion leaders. “Protesters handed out a flyer setting out Chretien’s pro-abortion record. As a member of the Liberal government he consistently defended the old abortion law which allowed for some 80,000 unborn children to be killed each year. In 1981, as Justice Minister, Chretien guided the Charter of Rights through Parliament and fought against amendments which would have protected the unborn.
Chretien’s organizers were obviously unnerved by the presence of picketers who arrived while the event was in progress. Rather than allow Chretien to come into contact with any protesters, his team had Chretien exit the building surrounded by their heaviest men who pushed the pro-lifers aside to clear a path for Chretien.
Campaign Life Coalition organizer Carl Scarfe promised that Chretien and other pro-abortion leadership candidates will continue to be picketed throughout the campaign. “Liberal party members must be reminded that all the present front runners are pro-abortion and are unacceptable as leaders.”