0209wappelBefore Tom Wappel retired from politics, choosing not to run for the federal Scarborough Southwest riding he has held since 1988, he had a conversation with Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes. The CLC leader suggested to Wappel that he join the pro-life lobby group in some capacity and they quickly agreed to a role that best suited the former lawyer: he would be retained as legal counsel.

Campaign Life Coalition has not had an in-house legal counsel since the early 1980s, relying instead on individual lawyers on a case-by-case basis. The last legal counsel was Gwen Landolt, who would go on to co-found REAL Women of Canada.

Hughes told The Interim it was time to have a reliable, knowledgeable lawyer to deal with various files and issues. “We are very fortunate to have someone with so much pro-life experience join us,” Hughes said. “He has been dealing with life and family issues on Parliament Hill for 20 years.”

Wappel was elected in 1988, defeating a PC incumbent after upsetting Patrick Johnston,  Liberal leader John Turner’s star candidate, for the Liberal nomination in Scarborough West (as the riding was called then). Johnston and Tory Reg Stackhouse both supported abortion and CLC supported Wappel’s nomination battle and general election campaign.

In 1990, Wappel sought the Liberal leadership, making legal protection for the unborn a centrepiece of his platform. He was supported by Liberals for Life, but finished fourth in balloting with six per cent of the votes. Jean Chretien became leader and eventually prime minister and Hughes said that Wappel’s uncompromising and principled defence of the unborn in the leadership race prevented the MP from joining the cabinet ranks.

Wappel was a co-chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus and his pro-life activism and political leadership have earned him the moniker “dean of the pro-life caucus” from his peers on Parliament Hill. He would often address pro-life groups and was a regular fixture at the National March for Life in Ottawa. In 1998, Wappel won the Joseph P. Borowski award, CLC’s award to a politician who shows extraordinary dedication to protecting the unborn.

Wappel became CLC’s legal counsel on Jan. 1. In the CLC National News, Hughes said, “His legal and political expertise and extensive experience will only make CLC an even more effective leader in pro-life activism and lobbying.”

Wappel received his bachelor of laws from Queen’s University in 1974 and was called to the Ontario Bar in 1976. He practised civil litigation and corporate law.

Last year, former Liberal and independent MP Pat O’Brien (London-Fanshawe) joined CLC as a political advisor.