Gut Mitges, a pro-life former MP who passed away on Nov. 1 at the age of 90, is being mourned by the Canadian pro-life community.
Mitges spent more than two decades representing the rural southwestern Ontario ridings of Grey-Simcoe and Bruce-Grey, distinguishing himself by voting against the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution because it did not protect the right to life of the unborn child and repeatedly seeking legal protection for the unborn.
Born in 1919 in Greece, Mitges immigrated to Canada at the age of six and grew up in Guelph. He became a veterinarian and set up shop in Owen Sound, a small town on the shores of Georgian Bay. He was active in community theatre and local politics before running for the Progressive Conservatives in the riding of Grey-Simcoe in 1972. He was re-elected in 1973, 1979, 1980 and 1984. In 1988, ridings were reconfigured and he ran successfully in the new riding of Bruce-Grey.
During his tenure, Mitges not only voted against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but also introduced a motion (M-37) in 1987 to explicitly acknowledge the unborn child and her rights under the Charter. M-37 was endorsed by the three major national pro-life groups of the time, Alliance for Life, Campaign Life, and the Coalition for Life.
Mitges told The Interim at the time that he chose to try to amend the Charter of Rights, rather than the Criminal Code sections allowing abortion, because he felt that Charter protection for the unborn child would be more secure, for the Constitution is more difficult to change than the law. The motion was defeated by a vote of 89-62 on June 2, 1987.
In 1988, he introduced an amendment (the Mitges amendment) that would have protected all unborn children from the movement of conception, to Brian Mulroney’s first abortion measure. In July, five amendments to the government’s motion were presented for a vote in the House of Commons, including a gestational limit (first trimester) proposed by Ken James (PC, Sarnia-Lambton) that was defeated 202-17. Pro-abortion measures were defeated by similar margins.
The Mitges amendment was only narrowly defeated, 118-105. The Mulroney government bill, which also took a gestational approach, was defeated 147-76. Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes told The Interim that the Mitges amendment was the only pro-life vote the government allowed in six abortion-related amendments and bills in 1988 and it was the only one that came close to passing.
“He wasn’t afraid,” Hughes said, commenting on the relative success of Mitges’ efforts in nearly winning legal protection for the unborn. “When you’re not afraid, you can do anything.”
Hughes recalls that, during a 1992 national pro-life conference, Mitges received a standing ovation from the 1,200 attendees. He said Mitges “was a courageous politician who desperately wanted to bring in legislation to protect the unborn.”
Mitges never once lost an election, retiring in 1993 due to health concerns. He is survived by his second wife, Yolanda, four children and two step-children.