In January of 2006, shortly after Stephen Harper’s election as the first Conservative prime minister since Brian Mulroney, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation aired a biography of Stephen Harper. With accusations of a hidden so-con agenda regularly airing on most Canadian networks, CBC reporter Gillian Gindlay asked Harper biographer William Johnson how the new prime minister would deal with the fact that a substantial portion of his base held socially conservative views. Harper was aware of that, replied Johnson. But the new prime minister wasn’t worried. Why? “They knew all they had to do,” revealed Johnson, “was control these people.”
Since the beginning of his political career, Stephen Harper has tried—quite successfully—to distance himself from and silence the socially conservative contingent in both the base that elected him and within his own caucus. Last week, it would appear that he finally went too far.
Desperate to stomp out any discussion around the abortion issue, even a motion as both benign and banal as Langley MP Mark Warawa’s Motion 408, “That the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination” was, in an affront to democracy increasingly typical of the allegedly conservative Harper, deemed non-votable. Granted, the motion was spiked by a sub-committee, not by Harper himself, but all the evidence suggests that there has been enormous pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to dispense with any annoying discussion on abortion—even a verbal condemnation of a practice which 92% of the Canadian public disapproves of.
Mr. Warawa, however, has had enough, and is promising to fight the subcommittee’s decision as far as he needs to—in the process, we hope, embarrassing Mr. Harper far more than any vote could have done. The prime minster wants the social conservatives whose votes he needs to maintain his majority to go away, while showing up every few years to vote his government back into power. It’s time Mr. Harper realized something: We now know what he’s all about. We know he doesn’t like us. And guess what? We don’t much like him, either. And this isn’t his grandfather’s pro-life movement anymore. We’re young, we’re numerous—and our voices aren’t even close to hoarse yet.
I’ve made this point before, but I think it’s really important that everyone—and I mean everyone—who values human life be aware of what Stephen Harper has done and is attempting to do to the pro-life movement. Many of us were holding out for the hidden agenda that never existed, and many of us still cling to the idea that Harper is “biding his time,” being a “smart politician” or is simply (and is there really any such thing?) a “secret pro-lifer.” This is a man who is completely unconcerned with the systematic gutting and decapitation of hundreds of pre-born Canadians per day. He’s just concerned that we keep bringing it up.
Just to ensure that you don’t think I’m engaging in hyperbole, let’s review Harper’s record on abortion:
- In 2002, Stephen Harper used the abortion issue to attack pro-life candidates in the Canadian Alliance leadership race, while attempting to claim that he was simultaneously somehow “pro-life.” However, he ran against candidates Stockwell Day, Grant Hill, and Diane Ablonczy in part by attacking the social conservatism and specifically their stance on the abortion issue.
- In 2004 as leader of the newly formed Conservative Party, Stephen Harper begrudgingly said he would allow a “free vote” on the abortion issue (something the federal Liberals do as well), but referred to abortion as “a woman’s right to choose,” clearly highlighting his pro-abortion views on the matter. During the English Election debate on June 15 of the same year, Harper declared that, “I will not have legislation limiting a woman’s right to choose.”
- At the March 2005 Conservative policy convention, Stephen Harper noted in his speech that “as prime minister, I will not bring forth legislation on the issue of abortion.” According to LifeSiteNews: “This speech…is said to have produced a 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.”
- On December 11, 2005, Harper wrote a letter to the Washington Times. He writes toward the end of the letter that, “a new Conservative government will not initiate or support any effort to pass legislation restricting abortion in Canada.”
- On March 1, 2006, shortly after his election, Harper told Maclean’s Magazine that, “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.”
- In 2008, LifeSiteNews reported that, “Harper’s Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson, effectively scuttled a private members bill that sought to protect unborn victims of violence, by pledging to introduce his own gutted version that would merely list pregnancy as an aggravating factor at sentencing. Nicholson alleged that protecting wanted babies would risk ‘instilling fetal rights.’”
- On December 15, 2010, Harper voted against Roxanne’s Law (Bill C-150), a bill that would ban Canadians from coercing women into an abortion.
- On April 4, 2011, Harper assured a reporter asking about the abortion issue that, “Our agenda is the same agenda with a majority government or a minority government.”
- In April of 2012, Harper not only promised to vote against MP Stephen Woodworth’s Motion 312 to examine when life begins, but noted during Question Period that it was “unfortunate” that the motion had even been deemed votable.
- In response to a letter to the RCMP by three Conservative backbenchers requesting an investigation into the discovery that between 2000 and 2009, 491 babies had been born alive following abortion procedures and left out to die, Harper stated in the House of Commons that; “All members of this House, whether they agree with it or not, understand that abortion is legal in Canada and this government, myself included, have made it very clear that the government does not intend to change the law in this regard.”
There’s more, of course, but I think I’ve made my point. Stephen Harper is in no way a friend of the pro-life movement, and is fond of telling us that he is our enemy. He has given us not the slightest reason to support him. Since he became prime minister in 2006, it’s been all sticks and no carrots. Yet, like a battered wife who feels she has nowhere else to go, social conservatives limp to the voting booth to give Harper his much-abused power back whenever election time rolls around. Now he’s telling members of his own caucus that they can’t present anything that even remotely resembles human rights for the pre-born—even if a massive percentage of the Canadian public is supportive.
Harper has tragically underestimated the size, youth, tenacity, and dedication of the newly emerging pro-life movement. We’re in this full-time, and for the long haul. Even the lowest polling numbers say that nearly ten percent of Canadians are against abortion in all cases, with polling for abortion restrictions being much higher (some polls placing it at over 70%). Harper won his majority government with only 39.6% of the popular vote. He may want to be a bit nicer to a constituency that he has definitively lost control over, and that he depends on for political survival. The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform recently launched a political awareness campaign called “Face the Children.” Mr. Harper can be assured that we do not plan to go away, we do not plan to be quiet, and we plan to inform disenfranchised voters of precisely what he stands for.
Because we don’t particularly care whether or not Mr. Harper keeps his job. We’re far more concerned with ensuring that pre-born Canadians keep their lives.