Top 10 stories of 2016
10. Renewed pro-life political activism in Canada
Social conservatives were making news in Canada for grassroots involvement. The October victory of 19-year-old socially conservative Sam Oosterhoff over Ontario Progressive Conservative president Rick Dykstra for the party’s nomination in a by-election was heralded as a victory for the movement over the party establishment. But it began when grassroots supporters got involved in federal Conservative policy and delegate selection meetings in the winter, culminating in victories at the party convention in May: defeating a pro-euthanasia motion, adding language to the CPC’s principles and platform recognizing the sanctity of human life and opposing gendercide abortion. It wasn’t all good: the Conservative Party convention rescinded the party’s pro-traditional marriage position.
Despite a Health Canada okaying the abortion drug Mifegymiso for distribution in Canada beginning in 2016, its Canadian distributor, Celopharma Inc., will not make it available in the country until January at the earliest. Health Canada permitted the abortion drug with conditions – limiting it to seven weeks pregnancy and requiring several doctor’s visits – but the Washington-based National Abortion Federation and the British Columbia government is pressing the Health Minister to relax those restrictions. Also, B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake called upon the government to intervene after Celopharma refused to pay for the Common Drug Review carried out by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Canada, which is required before provincial drug plans (outside Quebec) cover pharmaceuticals. Lake said poor women will not have access to the abortion drug if they have to pay hundreds of dollars out of their own pocket for Mifegymiso.
8. Cassie and Molly’s law defeated
MP Cathay Wagantall (Yorkton-Melville) introduced a private member’s bill, the “Protection of Pregnant Women and their Pre-born Children Act,” which was also known as Cassie and Molly’s Law, named after a Windsor women and her unborn child who were killed in 2014. In October, the House of Commons voted down the bill 209-76. If passed, Cassie and Molly’s Law would have made it a separate crime to assault a pregnant woman causing the death of her unborn child. Liberal and NDP MPs and the abortion lobby said the law would recriminalize abortion. A Nanos Poll released in July found that 69 per cent of Canadians supported such a law, including 75 per cent of women.
7. Transgender politics
The Trudeau government rammed through C-16 through the House of Commons. “An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code,” with regards to gender identity and gender expression (transgender rights) sailed through the Justice and Human Rights Committee without hearing expert testimony and then passed in the House of Commons without a recorded vote. It is now before the Senate where the “independent” and Liberal majority is expected to pass it without much debate. Pro-family critics of the bill say the terms gender identity and gender expression are not properly defined. Meanwhile, University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson was chastised by his own school administration for posting a video in which he said, among other things, that he would not use gender-neutral pronouns like ze and zie saying they are made-up words. Peterson became a leading spokesman against the imposition of speech codes including politically correct pronouns as he has warned both Canadian and international audiences about the totalitarian threat inherent in requiring speakers to use certain words.
6. Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown’s war against social conservatives
In August, Patrick Brown issued a letter opposing the Ontario government’s sex-ed curriculum and vowing to replace its “controversial” elements. Days later he retracted it, going so far to say that opponents of sex-ed should not vote for his Progressive Conservative candidate in a by-election. After a social conservative won his party’s nomination in another by-election later in the fall, Brown aggressively sought to disqualify pro-life and pro-family individuals seeking nominations for the 2018 provincial election – selections that are already under way. In December, Brown said that he would not tolerate any candidate who wants to re-open the abortion, marriage, or sex-ed debates. Campaign Life Coalition estimates that 40 per cent of the Ontario PC base is socially conservative and questions the wisdom of the Tories actively opposing its own supporters.
5. Newfoundland clamps down on free speech rights of pro-lifers
In November, Newfoundland and Labrador Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons, introduced Bill 43, “An Act to Create Safe Access Zones Around Facilities and Homes of Doctors and Service Providers Providing or Facilitating Abortion Services.” The law would ban pro-life protesters from 50 meters of an abortion facility and 160 meters of any abortionists’ home. Protesters are also banned from attempted “to advise or persuade, a person to refrain from accessing abortion services” or attempt “to inform a person concerning issues related to abortion services.” It also makes it illegal to photograph or film people within those exclusion zones. In the summer, the provincial Supreme Court established a bubble zone against protests around the Athena Health Centre, which does abortions in St. John’s; Bill 43 effectively expands and codifies the bubble zone decision. The province joins British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec in having bubble zones prohibiting the free speech and free assembly rights of pro-lifers.
4. Two pro-life candidates seek CPC leadership
At least 15 people entered the Conservative Party leadership race, to be decided in May 2017, including two pro-lifers. MP Brad Trost and former MP Pierre Lemieux both threw their hat into the ring. Both have impeccable pro-life and pro-family voting records according to Campaign Life Coalition. While pro-life candidates have sought political party leadership positions in the past, this is the first time that they have continued to highlight life issues on the campaign trail. Trost has talked about conscience rights while Lemieux released a video promising to do something about gendercide abortions. MP and former Speaker of the House Andrew Scheer, who also had a perfect voting record, also entered the race but has told media he will not re-open the abortion issue if he is elected leader of the Conservatives and forms government. MP Maxime Bernier, who is a social liberal, told journalists he will allow members of the Conservative caucus to raise social issues although he would not do so as a government.
3. Donald Trump elected president,
offers hope to pro-lifers
Defying expectations that he could win the Republican presidential nomination or the presidency, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in November. He named pro-life Indiana Governor Mike Pence his running mate, vowed to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, promised to defund abortion, and supported a law banning abortions after 20 weeks when the preborn child can feel pain. After being elected, he appointed numerous individuals who hold pro-life views to his cabinet (subject to Senate approval), including Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Rep. Tom Price as Health and Human Services Secretary, and philanthropist Betsey DeVos as Education Secretary. One of Trump’s first official acts in January or February will be to appoint a replacement for the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia.
2. Prince Edward Island no longer abortion-free zone
Prince Edward Island Premier Wade MacLauchlan announced the creation of a new Women’s Wellness Centre in Summerside, which will begin committing abortions in 2018. The Justin Trudeau government had exerted political pressure on its provincial counterpart to reverse the three-decade policy of not doing abortions on the Island. Since the 1980s, Island women seeking abortions went to New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, but abortion activists complained that this limited access to the procedure. In January, abortion activists Abortion Access Now launched a lawsuit against the government seeking full abortion services on the Island. In September, Health Minister Robert Henderson said the Women’s Wellness Centre will provide pre-natal and post-natal care, sexual health services, and pregnancy termination, among other treatment. Nicole Dupuis, executive director of PEI Right to Life, said with abortions being carried out in Island facilities, vigils such as 40 Days for Life could be coming to PEI.
1. Euthanasia is legalized
In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada threw out the Criminal Code prohibition on euthanasia and gave the government one year to enact a new law permitting the practice. The Harper government did not do anything before being defeated that October, leaving the Trudeau government free to introduce its Medical Assistance in Dying legislation. After getting an extension from the Court, the government rushed a study and committee debate in an attempt to pass a wide-open euthanasia and assisted-suicide law by June. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition criticized “Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying),” for failing to protect vulnerable individuals, saying the so-called safeguards protected doctors not patients. Euthanasia supporters were also unhappy with the bill as it limited euthanasia to the terminally ill and to adults. C-14 was passed by the House of Commons in May. The Senate attempted to further broaden C-14, but failed. The Trudeau government said it would review expanding the law after it was passed with an eye to liberalizing it. Within a month of being promulgated, C-14 was being challenged in the courts to broaden its scope to include those whose deaths are not “foreseeable” as required by the law. The provinces are currently considering how to implement medical assistance in dying, including whether health care professionals should have conscience rights. The Globe and Mail estimates about 600 people availed themselves of euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide in 2016.