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April 19, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – So last week, United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney and most of his caucus walked out of the Alberta Legislature rather than debate and vote on the NDP’s “bubble zone” Bill 9, which would restrict freedom of speech around abortion clinics. The bill, Kenney stated, was being put forward purely to distract from Premier Rachel Notley’s disastrous economic record rather than any genuine concern about pro-life protesters, who are universally peaceful. Notley was merely playing the same game Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was playing when she sprang similar legislation on then-PC leader Patrick Brown, who immediately responding by demanding that his caucus either show up and vote for the bill or keep their mouths shut.

For the record, I think that Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party made a mistake in trying to avoid the issue. I understand what they were trying to accomplish: They did not want Notley to be able to accuse them being insufficiently supportive of “women’s rights” for the next year or so when they want to be hammering her on piplelines. But of course, they didn’t dodge that bullet, anyway—the NDP is now accusing them of “running away” from their responsibility to protect women trying to access abortion. Short of actually voting for the bubble zone legislation, the UCP was going to face identical accusations from the NDP regardless of what route of action they chose. I don’t think the UCP gained anything by appearing squishy to their own base while facing the same NDP attacks they would have had they voted against the bill on free speech grounds.

But what I want to draw attention to is an exchange in the legislature between Angela Pitt of the UCP and Deborah Drever of the NDP. Pitt explained, rather eloquently I thought, why she was abstaining from voting on the bubble zone law:

Madam Speaker, any law that we pass in this Legislature must balance the objective that it is trying to achieve with the protection of our Charter rights and freedoms. We all have a responsibility as MLAs to defend the Charter rights of all Albertans, even those we disagree with. As a party rich with history of protest I truly hope that the government has considered these implications, but many have expressed concerns that the government has not. Yes, women entering and exiting abortion clinics absolutely have a right to do so free of intimidation and harassment, but citizens also have a right to express peacefully their opinion as it relates to abortion, even if some don’t want to hear it. Bill 9 impacts one’s ability to do so. What’s more, it offers no more protection than the existing court injunctions do today. But like I said earlier, Madam Speaker, that wasn’t really the intent of this bill. The intent all along has been to draw this side of the House into a debate on an incredibly contentious social issue and claim any opposition to their flawed legislation as sinister. The NDP is trying to pit Albertan against Albertan. Well, I will not take this bait. I will be abstaining from voting on Bill 9. I know that the reasons for being on one side of this issue or the other are complex and deeply personal, and it’s not up to any of us to judge Albertans for their personal beliefs, especially if those beliefs are expressed peacefully and in accordance with the law. In closing, Madam Speaker, let me leave you with this quote from Evelyn Beatrice Hall, who famously wrote: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Thank you.

That final quote is a very common one in libertarian circles and is frequently invoked by supporters of free speech as a way of illustrating the absolute necessity of freedom of speech in a free society. The sentiment is clear: No matter what you believe, you have the right to articulate that belief in the public square—even if I disagree with what you have to say and despise the ideology you hold. That sentiment was once a unifying one, something both liberals and conservatives could agree on. In fact, it was a sentiment they needed to agree on for society to function. But apparently the NDP’s Honorable Member for Calgary-Bow did not find that idea a unifying one. Instead, she found it deeply triggering.

“That was really hard to hear on my end,” she told her female colleague. “I am offended by these comments. I’m offended as a woman. Not only are these comments hurtful to me; they are hurtful to all women in this province. I believe that the Member for Airdrie should apologize to all women.”

Go ahead and read that twice if you need to. To sum up: A female MLA from the NDP informed a female MLA from across the aisle that she was “offended as a woman” because another woman dared to disagree with her. In fact, she felt that her female colleague should apologize to both her and all females for not holding the exact same ideology as herself, because apparently she is incapable of recognizing the monumental arrogance it takes to assume that all Albertan women agree with her on abortion. Spoiler alert: Many of them don’t. In fact, most of the peaceful pro-life protesters who show up near abortion clinics are women.

That short exchange reveals the danger today’s Left poses to our fundamental freedoms. Not only can the NDP vote against free speech rights in the name of protecting other rights, but one MLA can even respond to her colleague’s declaration of support for freedom of expression by saying that such sentiments are “hard to hear” and arrogantly demanding an apology on behalf of all women. This arrogance combined with an utter lack of respect for the bedrock right of freedom of speech is a toxic and dangerous combination—and one that all Albertan voters should be taking note of.

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Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and others. He has received an award for combating anti-Semitism in print from the Jewish organization B’nai Brith. His commentary has been featured on CTV Primetime, Global News, EWTN, and the CBC as well as dozens of radio stations and news outlets in Canada and the United States.

He speaks on a wide variety of cultural topics across North America at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions. Some of these topics include abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution, and euthanasia. Jonathon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Jonathon’s first book, The Culture War, was released in 2016.