Pro-lifers suspend judgement

By Paul Tuns
The Interim

Pro-life reaction to Paul Martin’s cabinet has been muted, with leaders taking a wait-and-see approach to the coming months.

As LifeSite Daily News noted in an analysis, “For the first time in many years, there are some pro-life MPs in the Liberal government cabinet.” Four socially conservative Toronto-area MPs made the cabinet or sub-cabinet: Albina Guarnieri is the associate minister of national defence and minister of state (civil preparedness), Joseph Volpe was named minister of human resources and skills development, Dan McTeague is the parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs with special emphasis on Canadians abroad, and Jim Karygiannis is parliamentary secretary to the minister of transport with special emphasis on transport and environment. Other MPs who have supported socially conservative positions were also named to the cabinet.

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interim he was pleased with many of those who made the cabinet and that pro-lifers will now “hope for the best.” He said that the presence of pro-life MPs in the cabinet may show an openness to the issue that was lacking in the past decade under former prime minister Jean Chretien.

Of course, several key appointments were filled with pro-abortion or pro-gay rights MPs, including new Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Anne McLellan, Minister of State (Public Health) Carolyn Bennett and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Scott Brison, a former Tory MP who jumped to the Liberal party after the merger of the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance. Other pro-abortionists were kept in their old jobs: Claudette Bradshaw as minister of labour, Bill Graham as foreign affairs minister and Jean Augustine as minister of state (multiculturalism and status of women).

The new justice minister, Irwin Cotler, will be responsible for the handling of the government’s same-sex “marriage” file. Cotler did not vote on a Canadian Alliance motion in September, which sought to define marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman, but he later told the Canadian Jewish News that he was in favour of redefining marriage to include homosexual couples. In the days after Cotler was sworn in as justice minister, he indicated the government will re-submit its referral to the Supreme Court of Canada to now ask for a legal opinion on whether the government can get “out of the marriage business” altogether.

It is intriguing that Martin lumped together the health and intergovernmental affairs portfolio under Pierre Pettigrew. While Pettigrew is anti-life, according to votes he cast during 2003 (C-13, the government’s reproductive technologies bill, and M-83, a private member’s motion asking Parliament to explore the medical necessity of abortion), the federal government may be looking at larger jurisdictional issues when it comes to healthcare. For years, provincial and federal politicians have dismissed questions about abortion by claiming it was the other level of government’s responsibility. The federal and provincial roles in healthcare may be more clearly defined, leading to a greater accountability on all health issues, but especially abortion.

Hughes described the Dec. 12 announcements as “a pre-election cabinet” and said that it will be too early to tell who stays and what they will do with their new portfolios.

Perhaps as important as scrutinizing the cabinet is taking a close look at the people with whom Martin surrounds himself. Martin’s initial key appointments have been a cause for concern among pro-life and pro-family groups.

Hughes said he was “appalled by numerous appointments” to top Prime Minister’s Office posiions, beginning with Maurice Strong as an international, economic and environmental affairs adviser (see the December Interim). Martin has also made at least two extremely troubling appointments to his inner sanctum.

Francis Fox, a former Trudeau-era cabinet minister, was named principal secretary. In 1978, Fox resigned as federal solicitor-general when it was discovered that he was forced to confess (in the words of the Globe and Mail) “to the Commons that he had signed someone else’s name on a hospital document to help secure an abortion for a woman with whom he had been having an affair.” Martin has made integrity and ethics a centerpiece of his new regime, but as the Campaign Life Coalition January newsletter notes, appointing a man who had an affair and lied to the hospital so his mistress could procure an abortion is “an odd understanding of integrity and character.” Martin dismissed media questions about Fox’s ethics, stating, “That’s something that happened a long time ago.”

Martin has also appointed Tim Murphy, a former Ontario MPP for the riding of St. George-St. David, as his chief of staff. Murphy has been a long-time supporter of the gay agenda and marriage to include homosexuals, having introduced provincial legislation in 1993 that would have amended the Human Rights code to ensure special rights for homosexuals, including the redefining of “marital status to include same-sex partners.”