OTTAWA, March 22, 2013 ( – Canada’s life and family leaders have risen en mass to condemn what is being widely acknowledged as a “shocking and unprecedented” decision by a subcommittee on Private Members’ Business that declared as “non-votable” a private members motion on discrimination against women.

MP Mark Warawa’s Motion 408 to condemn sex-selection abortion was declared non-votable Thursday morning in a move critics see as an ongoing joint effort by the Conservative government and the Opposition to keep anything abortion-related out of Parliament.


Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), called the move “shocking and unprecedented,” adding that it was “anti-democratic and a violation of MPs rights to be heard in parliament.”

“Motion 408 calls for protection for women and girls. Who can be opposed to such a motion?” asked CLC’s Mary Ellen Douglas. “Canada presents itself as being a defender of human rights here and around the world, and yet our own MPs are not free to bring forward private members motions without being censured by their own Parliament.”

M-408 reads simply: “That the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.”

Peter Murphy, assistant director of the Catholic Organization For Life and Family (COLF), told that the statement “It’s a girl” should not be a “death sentence.” Murphy, pointing out that MPs are elected to serve the common good, questioned how that good could be served by “remaining mute about the barbaric practice of sex selective abortion?”

But LifeCanada president Lisa Smith called the subcommittee’s move a “parliamentary trick” by MPs who are “afraid” to declare themselves on the issue of abortion by having to face a vote on “sex selection abortion”. She slammed the move as “appalling” and “disappointing”.

“Democracy doesn’t work when the government plays games like this,” she wrote in a press release.

MP Warawa has accused subcommittee members of breaching Parliament's rules and says he will appeal their decision “as far as necessary,” which could include an unprecedented secret ballot in the House of Commons.

“Motion 408’s call to condemn discrimination against women and girls is definitely in order,” said Warawa in a press release yesterday, adding that MPs must “defend their right to vote on issues of the day.”

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“The idea that Members of Parliament aren’t allowed to express an opinion on any subject is beyond belief,” he said.

Don Hutchinson, vice-president and general legal counsel for The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), said that according to his estimation and research, M-408 “clearly and easily” met the requirements for a votable motion.

The subcommittee on Private Members’ Business unanimously found that M-408 was too similar to Woodworth’s M-312, and that it concerned ultrasounds which, as a form of medical treatment, falls under provincial jurisdiction.

But the EFC pointed out however that M-312 dealt with the definition of ‘human being’, not with condemning the practice of sex-selection, as does M-408. The EFC also pointed out that M-408 is not a “legislative” initiative that would affect healthcare, but a “non-binding” initiative that “speak[s] to a concern of national proportion”.

Faye Sonier, EFC’s legal counsel, called the subcommittee’s move “lamentable,” adding that as a lawyer who follows Parliamentary business she was “quite surprised” to see a subcommittee unanimously discover that the motion did not satisfy votability criteria.

But Brian Lilley, senior correspondent for Sun Media on Parliament Hill, called the subcommittee’s reasoning for opposing the motion “garbage”.

“This motion was shot down because it was about abortion and comments from the MPs at the committee showed that to be the case,” he wrote on his blog, Lilley’s Pad, yesterday.

Lilley said the reason why the motion was shut down was obvious: “Stephen Harper will do whatever he can to make sure that no one talks about abortion while he runs the House of Commons”.

Prime Minister Harper has indicated on numerous occasions that he will have nothing to do with abortion. Conservative pro-life MPs have complained of the “ironclad” curtain that their leader has erected around the issue of abortion.

The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC) added its voice to the outrage saying it was “shocked” to hear of the move by the three member subcommittee.

“There are no clear reasons why this motion should not have passed the votability requirements,” stated the IMFC in a press release.

“92% of Canadians believe gender discrimination starting in the womb is wrong,” said IMFC’s executive director Andrea Mrozek. “That our elected officials want to shy away from discussing this puts them at odds with the general public. The House of Commons is a place to represent Canadians, not refrain from dialogue and debate for political reasons”.

Rebecca Richmond, executive director of the National Campus Life Network, said that she related all too well with the political tactics being used to silence Mr. Warawa’s life-affirming motion.

“All too often, we have seen students silenced on university campuses when exploring controversial topics,” she said. “It is baffling that Parliament would appear to be experiencing similar problems, especially when the motion at hand is a simple affirmation of a core Canadian value, that is, the equality of girls and boys.”

Joanne McGarry, executive director of the Catholic Civil Rights League, said that the League “regrets” the decision made by the subcommittee. “The vast majority of Canadians – 92 per cent according to a recent poll, have condemned the practice. It’s unfortunate that the House will now probably not have the opportunity to collectively express the revulsion of most Canadians for sex-selective abortions”, she said.

Life and family advocates are encouraging Mr. Warawa to keep pressing ahead with the appeal process.

Peter Murphy commended Mr. Warawa for “serving the common good by bringing this horrendous problem to the attention of more Canadians” and encouraged him to “continue the fight”.

Rebecca Richmond hopes that Mr. Warawa’s appeal will be successful so that “parliamentarians will have the opportunity to send a strong message about female equality in our country and abroad”.

Campaign Life Coalition hopes that the House will “change its mind on this quickly”.

Life and family leaders would like concerned Canadians to make their voices heard.

“I hope Canadians will inundate the Prime Minister’s office and their local MPs offices to tell them what they think about this shabby performance”, said Lisa Smith.

Parents As First Educators (PAFE) are also asking people to “take action to support the cause of life” and write letters to Prime Minister Harper. Warawa is protesting the move, and your letters to Stephen Harper can help,” said Teresa Pierre, PAFE president, in a press release.

The ball is now in the court of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs who will decide in a public meeting whether to allow the subcommittee’s decision to stand. The meeting will include verbal and written submissions from Mr. Warawa.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper
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