By Steve Jalsevac
See Part I
Canadian Prime Minister Big Improvement Over Liberal PMs But Clearly Not Pro-Life
June 27, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Stephen Harper has sent mixed signals on life issues although he has recently been more consistent in openly stating the abortion issue is something that neither he nor the party will address.
In 1993, responding to a CLC candidates’ questionnaire, Harper said he would follow the wishes of his (then-future) constituents on moral issues and that, after polling them, he found they wanted abortion to be kept legal.
In the 2000 Canadian Alliance Leadership Contest, Harper endorsed the socially liberal and pro-abortion Tom Long over candidates Stockwell Day and then regarded as pro-life Preston Manning.
Harper returned to politics in 2002 to succeed Day as leader, and, when Day himself entered the race, Harper used Day’s social conservatism and pro-life position as a major issue against Day. In fact, at times, it seemed that Harper was more interested in attacking the pro-life movement and social conservatives than he was in staking out his own position in the race against pro-life candidates Day, Grant Hill, and Diane Ablonczy.
Harper’s campaign specifically attacked Campaign Life Coalition for its efforts to encourage pro-life supporters to participate in the Canadian Alliance leadership vote.
In the midst of the 2002 Canadian Alliance leadership campaign, he told Global news that he was pro-life. During that same leadership race, he told The Interim that he opposed embryonic stem cell research and went on to vote against Bill C-13 (on reproductive technologies).
On Garry Breitkreuz’s private member’s motion M-83 - which, if it had passed, would have had Parliament study the medical necessity of abortion - Harper did not vote. An analysis of the political scene in the March 2004 issue of the CLC National News notes that in all his time in the House of Commons, and with several pro-life issues brought before the House, C-13 is the “solitary” vote Harper has cast “with parliamentary pro-lifers.”
As leader of the Conservative Party during the 2004 election campaign, Harper said that Conservative MPs would have a free vote on the issue but framed the issue as “a woman’s right to choose.”
During the 2006 election campaign most Conservative candidates felt severely pressured by party staff to totally avoid the abortion issue and often even the marriage issue. CBC News produced a January 19, 2006 news item on this phenomena. Reporter Terry Milewski stated, with some compelling evidence from individual Ontario campaigns, that “This time a number of candidates seem to be under wraps, unavailable to the media.”
However, they were not only unavailable to the media. Campaign Life Coalition encountered the most severe resistance ever from Conservative candidates to simply stating their views on life issues. Even many of the staunchest pro-life Conservative candidates refused to complete the CLC questionnaire and, in general, the Party did everything it could behind the scenes to withhold its candidate’s views on life issues from the electorate.
This was clearly another Stephen Harper strategy, if not devised by him, obviously approved by him.
Even now, well after the election, many Tory MPs are reluctant to publicly discuss the abortion issue, undoubtedly due to party pressure. At the May March for Life comments on the hill from Tory members tended to be more subdued and cautious than normal. Two Conservative MPs, Gord Brown and the strongly pro-life Cheryl Gallant, oddly stayed in the crowd and did not join the other MPs on the podium or address the crowd.
June 15, 2004 Election English debate:
Harper: Let me be very clear on the positions I’ve have taken on that. I want there to be no misunderstanding. I’ve said repeatedly, that I will not, that my Conservative government will not be tabling any legislation impacting in any way a woman’s right to choose.
Layton: Mr. Harper, what if someone brings forward a law that actually comes before parliament? You always counter by saying the government wouldn’t do it, but what if somebody put forward a proposed law that said a woman’s right to choose should be removed? Would you override a decision of the House? Would you take some leadership? Would you hide behind these free votes?
Harper: I won’t be supporting that kind of legislation
Martin: you’ve given us an example, you would take away a woman’s right to choose.
Harper: No I would not Mr. Martin,
Harper: I will not have legislation limiting a woman’s right to choose Mr. Martin.
Harper told his caucus that, at the upcoming March 2005 policy convention, the party leadership would be backing a resolution that would institute an official policy of not taking any position on abortion.
The day before the convention vote on the abortion resolution, Harper said during his speech, “as prime minister, I will not bring forth legislation on the issue of abortion.” This speech at the March 2005 convention is said to have produced the successful, although narrow passage of the motion that officially shut down abortion debate in the party and which has been used as a club to silence pro-life candidates and members of caucus.
In a December 11, 2005 letter to the editor of the Washington Times, Harper went out of his way to distance himself from the Bush administration by writing: “a new Conservative government will not initiate or support any effort to pass legislation restricting abortion in Canada.”
During an election stop in Quebec on January 17, 2006, Harper told reporters, “The Conservative government won’t be initiating or supporting abortion legislation, and I’ll use whatever influence I have in Parliament to be sure that such a matter doesn’t come to a vote.”
CTV News Jan. 18, 2006
Question to Stephen Harper from CBC’s Lloyd Robertson: Do you personally support a woman’s right to choose?
Harper: Well you know Lloyd, this is kind of a stuck record. We dealt with that at our convention. It’s clear in our platform. A Conservative government doesn’t intend to re-open that issue. I have a lot on my plate. I don’t have time to re-open that issue.
Robertson: But what about you personally?
Harper: Well, on my views, as I said, I’m not on either extreme on that issue.
Maclean’s Magazine, March 1, 2006 – Harper interviewed by Linda Frum
Macleans: But you fed the “hidden agenda” fear during the campaign when you said “never is a long time” when it comes to introducing abortion legislation.
Harper: The truth is, that was just a frank answer. No politician can ever guarantee to you that an item will not be debated sometime in the future. Nobody can make that commitment. But in my entire career, I’ve made it clear that I have no intention of getting into the abortion issue. It has not been my issue in my entire career. And it won’t be in the future.
An ominous indication of where Harper may be taking Canada was reported by Catherine McDonald, Executive Director of Action Canada for Population and Development, on January 26, 2006. She wrote:
“The Conservative government made a key commitment during the election campaign by signing on to the commitment to women’s human rights prepared by the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA).. Harper wrote: ‘Yes, I’m ready to support women’s human rights and I agree that Canada has more to do to meet its international obligations to women’s equality. If elected, I will take concrete and immediate measures, as recommended by the United Nations, to ensure that Canada fully upholds its commitments to women in Canada. (January 18, 2006).’”
McDonald went on to write “Women’s equality rights include sexual rights and reproductive rights, and this is an area where it will be very important to remind the government what they have agreed to uphold.”
Others Confirm Harper’s Abortion Policy
Excerpts from CBC National News January, 2006 biography of Stephen Harper by Gillian Gindlay:
Gindlay: Then as now, his party was a magnate for Reformers of all kinds.
Question to Harper researcher William Johnson: You think it was an uncomfortable time for him to be in a party with some of those people and some of those ideas that were being espoused.
Johnson: No, I don’t think so. They knew it would attract secessionists, it would attract the gun rifle lobby, it would attract the abortion, you know, Campaign Life. All these they knew all they had to do was control these people
Gindlay: At the Reform Party’s 1991 convention that year the talk was all about electoral breakthrough, how radicals had to be controlled and no one knew that better than Stephen Harper.
Harper Speech shown from that Convention:“We must not allow ourselves to be shot in the foot by radicals who have done this to new parties before.”
At a 2006 meeting, a strongly pro-life former Reform and then Alliance MP related he had a lengthy private meeting with Harper a few years ago. The MP stated he came away from that meeting with the realization that Harper “is not a social conservative. He has differing viewpoints than I do on homosexuality, abortion, those kinds of issues and I don’t think he’s changed his mind.”
The MP continued that “My years of being in his caucus once again demonstrated to me that he is a very strong, opinionated leader and if you want to survive in his caucus, in his government, you will be a hard driven person and you will do what he says.”
Mike Duffy Countdown Program - CTV Jan. 13, 2006
Guests Rona Ambrose, Belinda Stronach, Alexa McDonough
Stronach: I have seen the emails that went back and forth this week from Don Plett, the party president, that said once we get into power we’re going to bring forward a private member’s bill on abortion.
Ambrose: This is unbelievable the amount of fear mongering going on. On abortion, there will be no private member’s bill, no legislation ever supported or introduced in a Conservative government and for you to fear monger Belinda is absolutely unacceptable. We have a party position the Conservative government will never interfere with a woman’s right to choose. Our caucus stands behind that and our membership voted on it. And for you to fear monger on such and important issue…There will never be a vote.
Mike Duffy Countdown Program - CTV Jan 13, 2006 (following above section)
Guests: Liberal strategist John Duffy, Conservative Party strategist Bill Pristanski
John Duffy: “The Conservatives would allow a free vote on abortion…
Bill Pristanski: “Stephen Harper has said very clearly there is going to be no changes.
John Duffy: Stephen Harper will allow a free vote on abortion.
Pristanski: No, he will not. He has said, and it is on Page 20 (of policy book), that we are not going to change abortion. Stephen Harper is not going to do it.
On Stephen Harper’s failure to address the abortion issue, Fr. Raymond de Souza, in his March 2, 2006 National Post column, noted that Harper’s position is “de facto support” for the ongoing, massive killing.
De Sousa states “[Mr. Harper’s] position on abortion invites only two conclusions, neither of them flattering. Either he supports abortion on demand, but thinks there is political gain in dissembling; or he simply thinks the whole matter not important enough to do something about. The latter conclusion should offend both sides of the abortion debate.”
Harper On Euthanasia
French language debate January 10, 2006
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said that he opposes assisted suicide and has no intention of raising the issue in parliament. He would, however, allow a free vote on the issue if it were raised in parliament. “I can simply say it isn’t the intention of our government to propose this type of change to the law,” Harper said. “I think it’s important to resist the idea of giving the power to kill.
Harper On Marriage
During the first of the Dec. 12, 2005 Leaders debate, a French-language debate, Harper said, “the Conservative party has made a commitment. Voters can now vote and a Conservative government would put forward a motion so that Parliament could freely vote on the issue of marriage. Even if members decided to change the definition and bring it back to the traditional definition, we have to respect same-sex marriages that already exist.”
In response to the charge that he would have to use the charter’s notwithstanding clause to defend marriage Harper said in that same debate, “I will never use the notwithstanding clause on that issue.”
Critics have pointed out that the Conservative Leader has moved the marriage issue to a low priority, since the comment does not rule out use of the notwithstanding clause, but only its use to defend marriage.
In related news, Harper also dismayed conservatives by writing a letter to the conservative Washington DC paper the Washington Times on Dec. 11, 2005 in which he distanced himself from American conservatives.Â“And while I have promised a free vote in Canada’s Parliament to reconsider the recent change of law to allow same-sex marriages in Canada, and will vote myself for a return to the traditional definition of marriage, I have said any changes must protect the existing status of same-sex couples who have been legally married.”
In Feb. 2005 Harper proposed granting “other civil unions…the same rights and benefits and obligations as married persons”. That is, Harper’s only objection to same-sex ‘marriage’ appears to be the use of the name.
Harper rejected the candidacy of pro-marriage candidate John Pacheco during the Dec. 2005 Ottawa West nominations in order to protect the party’s star candidate, homosexual activist John Baird. Baird is a gay activist and staunch proponent of homosexual ‘marriage’. In the provincial legislature Baird spoke in favour of a provincial gay marriage law striking the words “husband” and “wife” from all Ontario legislation.Â In the legislature Baird went so far as to heckle one of his own provincial Conservative colleagues who opposed the gay marriage law.
In 2003 Baird was asked by Stephen Harper to serve as co-chair for his leadership campaign.Â And in the federal election of 2004, John was again asked by Stephen Harper to serve as Ontario co-chair for the National Campaign.
Harper Will Do Nothing For Social Conservatives - Montreal Gazette Editorial – Jan. 20, 2006
”...a fair-minded observer can see that Harper has little enthusiasm for rolling back the socially liberal status quo. On abortion, the party and leader have promised to change nothing. On same-sex marriage, his position is frankly preposterous, but you can almost see him wink as he advances it: a free vote on the definition of marriage, but no use of the notwithstanding clause, and existing same-sex marriages would never be annulled. It’s not easy to imagine such a free vote leading to a new law, even if Harper had a majority. In any case, by far his best way out of this morass would be to drop the issue.”
Harper On Religious Freedom
Jan./Feb. 2006 Faith Today EFC
“It’s perfectly legitimate for citizens and legislators to take into account their own deeply held faith convictions in developing public policy,” said Stephen Harper.
Harper added, “Government must respect these convictions and not attempt to interfere in the free public expression of religious belief. Sadly, freedom of religion has come under attack in recent years in cases ranging from religious organizations being expected to rent facilities for same-sex marriages to pastors being threatened with human rights charges for expressing their religious beliefs. A Conservative government will be vigilant to ensure that freedom of religion is protected in Canada”.