‘Speaking is what we do here’: More MPs rally around Warawa, demand freedom to speak in House
OTTAWA, Ontario, April 16, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Two Tory MPs have added their voice to the growing clamor over the Conservative party’s ironclad party discipline that stripped pro-life MP Mark Warawa of his scheduled speaking spot last month — 15 minutes before his allocated time — because the party did “not approve” his topic.
Warawa was scheduled to speak on his proposed motion condemning sex-selective abortions.
Ontario MPs Michael Chong and Pierre Lemieux defended an MPs right to be heard in Parliament in front of the House yesterday. Chong called speech the “fundamental right of all members in this place”. Lemieux called denying speech to MPs an “infringement on the rights and privileges of a member of Parliament”.
Last month Warawa challenged the Conservative party for rescinding his speaking spot, a move that many saw as a violation of Parliament rules.
Warawa had been scheduled to make a 60-second speech on sex-selective abortion prior to a vote on his Motion 408 that would have asked the House to affirm that it condemns “discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.”
But fifteen minutes before his allotted time, Warawa was told that he would no longer be speaking that day
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The next day Warawa learned that a parliamentary committee had deemed his motion non-votable. Critics interpreted this decision as part of an ongoing joint effort by the Conservative government and the Opposition to keep anything abortion-related out of Parliament.
Warawa’s appeal of the committee’s decision was dismissed on March 28, a move which he said he was “very disappointed” about.
In his defense yesterday of an MPs right to free speech, Chong told the House: “Speaking is what we do here.”
“In a democracy, we do not solve our debates or disagreements through the tip of a sword or through violence. We solve them through words: words of praise, words of caution, words of criticism.”
“That is why this question of privilege is so important. We settle debates in a democracy through words, and the ability of members to express those words on this floor is the heart of the matter,” he said.
Chong lamented how a shift in the House in the last 30 years to a “command and control function” has “eroded the basic principle on which modern Canadian political institutions are based.”
Lemieux said that since MPs are now being prevented from speaking about M-408, then “it is equally conceivable that they could also be prevented from speaking about their views on the non-votability of Motion No. 408.”
Lemieux criticized the committee for deeming M-408 non-votable, calling it a “most surprising and disappointing determination.”
“Motion No. 408, being a motion and not a bill, is an expression of condemnation, the type of which the House has expressed many times on a wide variety of issues,” he pointed out.
Around 20 MPs reportedly held a meeting at the end of March to consider their response to the party for sabotaging the vote on M-408.
One MP, on condition of anonymity, told the National Post on March 26 that “some kind of message will be sent” to Prime Minister Harper, such as defying the government whip on a non-budget matter, to let him know that some party members are not pleased with his idea of how to run a democracy.
The National Post’s John Ivison called the move the “closest the ruling caucus has come to revolution during its seven years in power.”
Warawa has until Friday to appeal to the House to hold a rare secret ballot to determine whether his motion is voteable or not.
In making his decision, Warawa said that he will “consider what is best for the issue of discrimination against women and girls.”