Pro-lifers across Canada are paying tribute to Senator Stanley Haidasz, who retired March 4 at the age of 75 after a long career marked by strong and consistent pro-life leadership.
Haidasz was a refreshing departure from the norm in Canadian politics, the ranks of which have been filled with politicians either of anti-life persuasion, a “personally opposed but …” moral stance or a wishy-washy pro-life position.
“Senator Haidasz has the kind of record every political leader should want,” noted Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes. “He consistently took the right side of the defining issue of his time, even though his position wasn’t ‘politically correct.’ History doesn’t forget that kind of integrity.”
Haidasz sponsored four bills to restore the right to life for unborn children, including one (Bill S-16) in 1988 immediately following the Supreme Court’s striking down of Criminal Code provisions on abortion. On that occasion, Haidasz pointed out that society’s vital interest in the unborn child “is as fundamental to the continued existence of our society as it is to the existence of the human race.”
Although the bill passed first reading, it died after debate during the second reading, because Parliament was dissolved.
The same year, Haidasz gave a speech in which he used his background as a physician to make a scientific case for protection of the unborn. “It is a scientific fact that, from conception on, the zygote is a unique, human individual with an identity and a life distinct from that of either of its parents. In its genetic code, it has all the information it needs for the production of a complete and mature human being.”
He added that it should be the obligation of members of the medical profession to heal the sick, not become “licensed executioners.”
Haidasz later strongly opposed, then sponsored eight amendments to, Bill C-43, the controversial 1991 attempt by the government of Brian Mulroney to enact a new abortion law. After the bill was defeated on a 43-43 vote in the Senate, Haidasz issued a statement that it was “gratifying” to have seen rejected a bill “based on fraud and duplicity.”
“Bill C-43 pretended to name abortion a criminal act, while in truth paving the way for a wide and easy access,” he continued. “The loss of 80,000 children annually destroyed by abortion is in fact a holocaust, resulting from bad law.”
Haidasz’s political legacy may endure with the possible enactment of Bill S-7, which he introduced last November and which has made its way past second reading in the Senate. The bill would amend the Criminal Code to make it a summary offence to coerce or blackmail a person into performing medical procedures that offend that person’s beliefs on religion and-or the inviolability of human life. The proposed statute would also make it an offence to blacklist such a person if he or she refused to participate in the procedures.
The bill, which is Haidasz’s second attempt at introducing such legislation, applies a definition of human life as beginning at conception.
This past February, he proposed a motion to set up a special joint committee of the Senate and House of Commons on the unborn child. The proposed committee would examine the problems created by the lack of a law to protect the unborn, as well as consider court rulings that indicate Parliament has the authority and a responsibility to enact some form of legal protection for the child in the womb.
Haidasz has also been a consistent opponent of the legalization of euthanasia as that issue has arisen in recent years.
Haidasz grew up in a poor, working-class district of west-end Toronto, the oldest of three sons of Polish immigrant parents. He worked part-time after school and full-time during summers to be able to attend Toronto’s St. Michael College School. He was awarded a BA in philosophy with honors from the University of Ottawa, then entered the medicine program at the University of Toronto.
He graduated in 1951 and worked in surgery-related practices until 1954. After completing post-graduate courses in cardiology and geriatrics, he felt himself being drawn into the political arena and entered politics with his election to the House of Commons in 1957. He was re-elected six times after that in Toronto ridings.
He served as a parliamentary secretary to several ministers, before being called to the Senate in 1978. He served on numerous Senate committees, including those dealing with finance, legal and constitutional affairs, science and technology, foreign affairs, banking, and trade and commerce.
“I urge you all to continue your struggle and to realize you are appreciated by many members of the Senate and the House of Commons,” Haidasz said recently to pro-lifers. “So never give up, and never lose hope.”