The Conservative Party of Canada came out against sex-selective abortion, euthanasia, and prostitution, and in defense of the practice of religious rights, at its national convention in Calgary, Nov. 1-2.
The non-binding resolutions were passed after making it out of policy plenary sessions, as only the ten most popular motions as determined by vote were brought to the convention floor.
In a motion brought forward by the Langley riding association of Mark Warawa, the Conservative delegates adopted a policy to reject the targeted killing of unborn children through abortion, a practice commonly known as gendercide because it frequently is used to eliminate unwanted preborn girls. Warawa introduced a private member’s bill condemning the practice that was deemed non-votable by a parliamentary committee last Spring.
John Hof, a long-time member of the Langley riding association, shepherded the motion from riding association meetings through the plenary session. He called it “one of the most gratifying moments in doing political work I’ve ever done.” He also described the motion as a “step in the right direction” and not an end in itself.
Pro-life activists from groups such as the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, WeNeedaLaw, and the Wilberforce Project also distributed more than 3,000 pamphlets on gendercide outside the convention calling attention to the issue.
Sources from the convention said that the motion was so popular that party officials did not need to tabulate whether it had the necessary “double majority” of both a majority of convention delegates and support from a majority of provinces.
Rosey Rosenke, executive director of the Wilberforce Project, formerly Alberta Pro-Life, said the anti-gendercide vote was a “big victory” noting that the party’s policy is now in accordance with the 92 per cent of Canadians who oppose sex-selective abortions according to a LifeCanada-sponsored Environics poll.
Sharon-Rose Milan, executive director of Campaign Life Coalition Alberta, told The Interim that the pro-life activism both inside and outside the convention is evidence of “what the movement can achieve when pro-lifers work together.”
The convention also adopted a policy that the party “will not support any legislation to legalize euthanasia or assisted suicide.”
Employment Minister Jason Kenney expressed approval of the resolutions by tweeting during the convention that he was “proud” of the delegates following their vote and he told various media in interviews after the convention that Conservative Party is within the mainstream of Canadian public opinion on moral issues such as sex-selective abortion and euthanasia. He told iPolitics.com: “It’s not legislation but it is a rejection of something that most Canadians find abhorrent which is seeking to discriminate based on gender in a really terrible way.” Kennedy also noted, “if the Liberals and the NDP are with the 8 per cent who are in favor of gender selection, that’s an extreme position, by definition.”
The vote on the euthanasia resolution was close, 615-502. Sources inside the convention said it won because there was a large number of socially conservative delegates from Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan.
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said, “it is very good that the governing Conservative Party of Canada have maintained a policy of protecting Canadians from euthanasia and assisted suicide.” He told the government “needs to continue protecting Canadians from euthanasia by challenging Bill 52, the unconstitutional euthanasia bill in Quebec, and by appealing court decisions, such as the Carter case in BC.”
The Conservative government has appealed court decisions overturning the Criminal Code prohibition on euthanasia and assisted-suicide and most of the governing party voted against a private member’s bill in 2010 that would have legalized the practices. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is on record saying he is against euthanasia and that the government would not re-open the issue.
Two other socially conservative resolutions were passed, including a call to re-criminalize prostitution and another to recognize the “right of faith-based organizations to refuse the use of their facilities to individuals or groups holding views which are contrary to their beliefs.” One delegate said from the floor of the convention, “we have to have the freedom to disagree without being immediately classed as being discriminatory.”
The policies are not binding on the government or the party in future campaigns. As Industry Minister James Moore explained to PostMedia, the resolutions “feed the platform” and the party’s leadership pays attention to these “important debates” but that ultimately the campaign platform and government policies are determined by the party leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
CLC national president Jim Hughes told The Interim the delegates represented a large portion of both the country and the Conservative Party’s base and that “Harper and his strategists would be wise to heed the democratically expressed wish of his base” if he wants to be re-elected. “Harper says he doesn’t want to re-open the abortion issue, but his own voters are not afraid of the debate.”
Conservative MP Rob Anders (Calgary West) said that the party cannot “ignore the social conservative element of the Conservative Party,” who just “exercised its voice” at the convention. He explained, “it’s a very strong element, it’s a huge reason why a lot of people support us, they expect to see us deliver on these things.”
Anders also said of the gendercide resolution, “I think it gives a very strong mandate to social conservatives (in Parliament) to say that the party strongly supports the idea that girls should not be eliminated and aborted because they are girls.”
The media focused on the gendercide and euthanasia votes. The Vancouver Province headlined its report on the convention, “Conservatives tackle touchy issues of abortion and euthanasia at convention,” while the Toronto Star ran the headline, “Tory grassroots condemn abortion, oppose euthanasia.” described the gendercide and euthanasia resolutions as “controversial.”
Hughes said that the media’s “attempt to paint the Conservatives as extreme on moral issues won’t work because the delegates endorsed mainstream, common-sense positions.”