A well-written letter can be a powerful instrument. An effective letter is clearly focused with a defined purpose, is concise, and based on good research. The key to writing effective letters is good research, and the internet is an invaluable tool to look up information on MPs.

Bill C-13, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, has huge implications for the protection of human life. Consequently, I wanted to learn exactly what my MP has said or not said on the subject, how he has voted on the bill and its various motions, and what the actual bill says. I answered all of my questions by accessing Parliament’s website. To follow this article, please go to the English homepage of www.parl.gc.ca.

To get an overview of what has happened so far with C-13, click on Bills found near the top. Then click on LEGISInfo, that is found in the left column. From here, you can use the search function by typing C-13 in the search box, or simply click on Government Bills (C-2 to C-200) and then scroll down to find C-13. Click on C-13. You now have before you several options. You can read the actual bill by clicking on Text of the Bill. Or click on Status of the Bill to see the bill’s progress through its various stages.

In the Status of the Bill section, you can determine what your MP said or did not say on any date (bright blue) identified there. Simply click on the date, and its complete record will appear in a new window. Select the Edit button found at the top of the browser, and you will get a dropdown list that includes Find. Select Find, type in the last name of your MP, and then click on Find Next. Your browser will scan instantaneously the entire document for any trace of your MP’s name and reveal each instance to you by clicking on Find Next. Click on the blue triangle to the left of the highlighted name to read what he or she said. You can also search for any reference to C-13 using the same technique. Close this window (by clicking on the X at the top right), and notice that the Report Stage took place on March 26.

Using the Back arrow (top left of screen), back up one screen, and you should see Selected Recorded Votes near the middle. Click on it, and you’ll see Concurrence Motion (Report Stage) Passed. Click on that, and a new window will appear with Division 132. There’s no date, but we already know that this took place on March 26. Note the search feature is gone. Division 132 is the vote that moved C-13 from the Report Stage to the Third Reading stage. Close this new window.

Parliament voted on many other important motions related to C-13 on March 26. To view these, return to the homepage by clicking on Home found at the top left corner. Click on Chamber Business found at the top, and then click on House of Commons Journals that is found in the left column. All the days of the 37th Parliament should be visible. Click on March 26.

Search for your MP to view his or her votes, or search for C-13 to view all of the divisions for that bill. You can search for 132 to see that vote again. As a general guide, if your MP voted the same way that MP Paul Szabo (a strong pro-life legislator) voted, be happy, and let your MP know that you are. If not, then you should be concerned, because your MP voted against motions that would have made the bill “more pro-life.”

You can apply these same techniques to the records of provincial legislatures, and municipalities if they keep Hansard-like material on-line. If you get stuck navigating, ask your local librarian for help. If you have specific questions about Parliament’s website, you can speak directly with a librarian in the Library of Parliament by phoning 1-866-599-4999, Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Friday till 5 p.m. (Eastern time).

Some, if not most, MPs believe they operate in Parliament without close scrutiny by their constituents. You can change that. Quoting the Hansard will distinguish your correspondence from the many pieces your MP gets daily and illustrate that you are an informed voter. If we could get just one pro-lifer in each riding to write a letter in this manner, the pro-life movement would benefit immensely.

The final vote for C-13 has yet to be held and the summer recess means you still have a chance to affect your MP’s vote on this. Good luck.