What Happened to Motion 408 and Why it Matters: A Summary

What Happened to Motion 408, Why It Matters,

and What it Means for the Abortion Debate in Federal Politics

  By Rebecca Richmond

 Introduction

Although  Motion 408 wrapped up in the spring and we are approaching fall, people are still curious about the fate of the motion.  I make this mostly unsubstantiated assertion based on the fact that it still comes up in conversation.  

 This interest is heartening because regardless of whether your interest in Canadian politics tends towards compulsively checking Twitter feeds, reading Hansard and watching CPAC or whether it tends to be more limited (and you have no idea what Hansard or CPAC is), the fact remains that what happened this spring with Motion 408 was important.  But, surrounded by parliamentary procedure and committees, not to mention the question of privilege and the Liberal motion concerning S.O. 31s, it can be a bit confusing.   Even friends and colleagues who had followed the issue to a certain extent were asking for explanations. 

 I looked for a summary of the situation and, not finding one, began to write.  What was originally intended to be a simple blog post turned into a series of posts and then was never posted at all.  I decided that it was too late and retired the document to a folder of drafts.

 But people continued asking about it and, so, upon request, it was emailed to a few friends.  More requests resulted in it being made more public.  So enjoy!

To open the article, click here.

 

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Urgent Action Required: Wednesday is the M408 Appeal!

The appeal for Mr. Warawa’s appeal to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) has been announced for this Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. EST.  It is critical that our voices are heard as the committee prepares to meet.  Our elected representatives need to know that we care not only about gendercide, but also about the democratic principles that were called into question this past Thursday when the sub-committee deemed Motion 408 non-votable.

If you have already sent some emails and used Twitter to voice your concerns, thank you – keep it up!  If you haven’t yet, please do so tonight or tomorrow (Tuesday).  There are some great tools you can use to do this quickly and easily.

Some key ways that YOU can help:

1. Email the members of PROC to express your concern.  You can find a list of the members and their emails below, or, use the great SimpleMail tool available from our friends at WeNeedALaw.  With a few clicks you can email all 12 members of the committee (plus your own MP and the Prime Minister).

 

Joe Preston – joe.preston@parl.gc.ca

Alexandrine Latendresse – Alexandrine.Latendresse@parl.gc.ca

Dominic LeBlanc  – dominic.leblanc@parl.gc.ca

Scott Armstrong – scott.armstrong@parl.gc.ca

Nathan Cullen – nathan.cullen@parl.gc.ca

Parm Gill – Parm.Gill@parl.gc.ca

Tom Lukiwski – tom.lukiwski@parl.gc.ca

Dave MacKenzie – dave.mackenzie@parl.gc.ca

Costas Menegakis – Costas.Menegakis@parl.gc.ca

Scott Reid – scott.reid@parl.gc.ca

Craig Scott – craig.scott@parl.gc.ca

Nycole Turmel – Nycole.Turmel@parl.gc.ca

 

2. Use Twitter to indicate your concern to these MPs.  Their twitter handles are listed below:

@CraigScottNDP (on the sub-committee that blocked M408)

@nathancullen

 

@NycoleTurmelNPD

@Armstrong_MP (on the sub-committee that blocked M408)

@ParmGill

@TomLukiwski

@CostasMenegakis

@ScottReidCPC (on the subcommittee that blocked M408)

 Don’t forget to tweet @pmharper (Prime Minister Harper) as well and use the #M408 hashtag!

*N.B. If you join Twitter specifically for M408, that’s great.  Be aware, though, that ‘mentioning’ or ‘tagging’ a lot of people immediately upon getting a Twitter account will probably result in your account being suspended (it will think you are a spammer).  Ease into it with a few general tweets and a few mentions before you get right into it.   And don’t forget to follow @NCLN and @NCLNwestern on Twitter!

Can’t think of a tweet? A few suggestions here.

3. Contact your own MP and the Prime Minister’s office. 613.992.4211.

Let them know you are calling in regards to Motion 408.  When you are directed to a voice mail system, leave a polite message with your name.  

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MP Stephen Woodworth’s Closing Remarks for the 2nd Hour of Debate

Closing Remarks – S. Woodworth

2nd Hour of Debate – Motion 312
September 21st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, our great democracy was founded on the promise that two founding nations in conflict could reconcile their differences peaceably. Generations of Canadians have lived – and died – to defend the dream of universal human rights and honest laws so necessary to fulfill that promise.

These ideals created unity out of diversity and made Canada a bright beacon of hope.

The sweep of history for 400 years has brought ever greater recognition of the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. That bedrock foundation anchors Canada’s essential character.

We are here in Parliament to honour that vision of Canada. We are here to seek out a spirit of compromise amid passionate debate. We are here to embrace advancing knowledge in the service of universal human rights.

Motion 312 honours those essential duties. Motion 312 seeks merely to shine the light of 21st century knowledge upon our 400 year old law which decrees the dehumanization and exclusion of a whole class of people, children before complete birth.

About abortion, I say this: recognizing children as human before the moment of complete birth will not resolve that issue.

Even Justice Bertha Wilson, who championed abortion rights in the Morgentaler decision, wrote that Parliament should “inform itself from the relevant disciplines”, the very proposal embodied in Motion 312.

Recognizing the reality that children are human beings before complete birth will affirm the hallowed principle that human rights are universal, not a gift of the State which may be cancelled by subsection 223(1).

It would be a triumph of leadership to insist that our definition of human being must not remain frozen in time forever, immune from the light of advancing knowledge, immune from democratic governance, and immune from the spirit of open dialogue.

It would honour our commitment to honest laws to recognize a child’s worth and dignity as a human being before the moment of complete birth if the evidence establishes that as fact.

It would fulfil our shared vision of Canada to allow, despite extreme and intransigent opposition, a mere study about human rights even if modern evidence might cause some to question our laws.

Or will Parliament reject those Canadian ideals? Is THAT what Parliament has come to?

I thank, and many Canadians thank, the Members who stand with me against that dismal view.

Yet we in Parliament cannot ourselves sustain – we cannot protect – we cannot without help safeguard – this great vision of Canada. The hope of a Canada governed by honest laws rests in the heart of every Canadian. The pledge offered by countless Canadians to the high principle of universal human rights will not be overcome by any decision of this Parliament. We may safely place our confidence in the certainty that Canadians will not rest content with the perpetual absence of open dialogue on this issue.

There is no more noble undertaking than to fulfill that essential promise of Canada. Join me in the conversation so necessary to reconcile Canadians.

Thank you.

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uOttawa Students For Life: Have You Contacted Your MP?

This post was written for uOttawa Students For Life by uOttawa Students For Life. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

Time is almost up! The second hour of debate on Motion 312 is tomorrow, Sept. 21, and the vote will be held next Wednesday, Sept. 26. If you haven’t done so yet, please call or email your MP and the Prime Minister. Also check out Let’s Stop the Pretense and Letters4Life. (Be sure to add your effort to the Letter Tracker!)

***You can use this tool to email all MPs at once.

As Margaret Somerville eloquently stated:

More than 100,000 abortions are performed in Canada each year. I suggest that we need to recover our sense of amazement, wonder and awe at the creation of new human life and that an in depth discussion about what our law on abortion should be might help us in this regard.


Read the comments at the uOttawa Students For Life website.

National Campus Life Network joins in declaration of support for Motion 312

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

National Campus Life Network joins in declaration of support for Motion 312

September 19, 2012

Toronto, ON – Dozens of Canadian organizations and individuals, including National Campus Life Network (NCLN), have united to sign a Declaration of Support for Parliamentary Study of Canada’s Legal Definition of “Human Being”.

This Declaration affirms support for Motion 312 and the establishment of a special committee to review the definition of ‘human being’ in subsection 223 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada. Currently the Criminal Code defines a child as a human being only “when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother.”

“All one has to do is open an embryology textbook to see that the current law simply doesn’t fit the facts,” states Rebecca Richmond, NCLN’s Executive Director. “An examination of current medical knowledge on the subject by Parliament is long overdue.”

The Declaration states, “The current definition was first enacted in Canada in 1892, founded in concepts argued before the courts and the Parliament of England more than three centuries prior, and does not reflect the medical and scientific knowledge acquired over the last century. Given the high value human life is given in our society, as reflected in our social policies and Criminal Code, it is essential that the Parliament of Canada provide clarity in the law on this point which impacts parental choice, biomedical research, medical practice and matters being brought before the courts of the nation.”

The second hour of debate on Motion 312 will take place this Friday. NCLN urges Canadians to voice their support for this motion by contacting their MPs.

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The full declaration can be found here.

National Campus Life Network exists to educate, network and support pro-life post-secondary students across Canada. For media inquiries, please contact Rebecca Richmond, Executive Director, at director@ncln.ca or 416 483 7869.

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Where do we go from here?

By Garnet Van Popta

Garnet Van Popta is an alumnus of uOttawa Students For Life and a guest blogger for NCLN.  He is currently studying at Humber College.

I’m sure most of you have heard the discouraging news from Parliament Hill.  Roxanne’s Law, Bill C-510, was defeated last Wednesday after the second reading in the house.  Am I surprised?  Sadly, no.  It seems that politicking is more important than standing up for what is right these days.  But even though I’m not surprised, I am discouraged.

Roxanne’s Law would have been a law that stood up for women in Canada.  It did not alter or restrict access  but abortion but would have ensured that a woman’s choice to keep her baby was protected.  It protected choice.  But of course, this was seen as a “back-door way” to restrict women’s rights.  Two thirds of MPs voted against the bill and among them was our prime minister.

Mr. Harper, with respect, I’m  sick of hearing about how you don’t want to open up a debate about abortion.  The debate is open. I would think that it’s getting hard to ignore.  It’s in the newspapers, on TV, on university campuses across the nation, and on the streets of our cities.  Now please do your job and talk about it.  Since 1988, Canada has had no law on abortion.  The Supreme Court, in R. v. Morgantaler, threw out the abortion law of the time and left it up to Parliament to enact a new one.  Well, it’s been 22 years (pretty much my whole life).  I think maybe it’s about time to address the legal vacuum abortion finds itself in.

If you feel the same way, why don’t you write our prime minister an email (pm@pm.gc.ca)?  Find out how your MP voted and email him or her about it.

To Mr. Bruinooge and the 96 other MPs that voted in favour of this bill, I thank you.  It took courage to take such a stand in an environment in which lies are held up as the truth.  Event though the bill was defeated, you were successful in getting the issue of coerced abortion on the minds of Canadians.  Moreover and most importantly, you stood up for what is right and just.

I hope you, the reader, are also feeling discouraged by the defeat of this bill. Your discouragement means you’re not satisfied when our elected officials sacrifice the truth for a lie.  But don’t simply be discouraged; take that and run with it.  We must continue to work for change in Canada.

I’m convinced that this change must happen at the grassroots level.  We need to talk to people: with coworkers, classmates and friends.  If you want a good conversation starter, why not talk about Roxanne’s Law?  “Did you hear about that bill that got voted down this past week…?  What do you think about abortion anyway?”  I, myself, resolve to do this more.

We must not allow the failings of our government to drive us into despair and inaction. Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  Let that inspire you to press on.


N.B.  The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.


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Roxanne’s Law: The First Debate

By Garnet Van Popta

Garnet Van Popta is an alumnus of uOttawa Students For Life and a guest blogger for NCLN.  He is currently studying at Humber College.

Yesterday, November 1st, Bill C-510, Roxanne’s Law was debated in Parliament.  The bill had its second reading, and the debate was on the topic of whether or not the bill should be “sent to committee” where it will be tweaked and adjusted before a third reading in the House of Commons.  The actual vote to decide whether it will go to committee is scheduled for early December.

MP Rod Bruinooge spoke first.  He told Roxanne’s story (which you can learn more about at roxanneslaw.ca), and explained why this bill is needed in Canada.  He said,

“Bill C-510 would communicate to all Canadians that coercing a woman to end her pregnancy against her will is wrong and unacceptable in a nation that values compassion, justice and human rights.

Roxanne’s Law would not affect women’s access to abortion in any way. With this law in place, Canada will continue to have no legal restrictions on the procedure permitted in all nine months of pregnancy. However, for those women who choose to have their baby, this law would give them added protection to fulfil their hopes and dreams of having a family.”

Conservative MP David Anderson spoke briefly, asking for clarification on whether the bill will restrict state coercion or personal coercion.  MP Bruinooge replied that the bill dealt with personal coercion.

Next, Bloc MP Nicole Demers spoke against the bill. According to her, the abortion debate is over (a line I’ve heard a few too many times).

“They can try to dress this bill up and manipulate people in all kinds of ways, but the fact is that it would restrict access to freedom of choice. That debate is over. We do not need to talk about it again. It was clear last year when we debated maternal and child health.”

Wait a minute.  The debate on maternal health last year proved the abortion debate was over?  Didn’t Parliament decide not to fund abortion overseas? I would argue that this proved the abortion debate was (and is) not over.

NDP MP Irene Mathyssen argued next that this bill is another anti-women initiative by the “Harper Conservatives”.

“Bill C-510 will do nothing to reduce violence against women. Like the other anti-choice private members’ bills introduced by government backbenchers, it is a Trojan Horse.”

The reason MP Mathyssen believes this is because the bill refers to an unborn child as a child, not a fetus.  This, according to Mathyssen, translates into fetal rights and infringes on the rights of women (quite a leap, according to my thinking).  MP Bruinooge pointed out in his introductory speech that using the word “child” is consistent with the rest of the Criminal Code, in which the word “fetus” does not occur.  This would be something, according to Bruinooge, that could be addressed by the committee.

Conservative MP Daniel Petit spoke against the bill because, according to him, it does not define some terms well enough, and is too vague.

Liberal MP Marlene Jennings also opposed the bill because of a perceived redundancy.  According to Jennings, coercion is already prohibited by law, and therefore another bill is unnecessary.

Another MP, NDP Jean Crowder, was basically a mouthpiece for the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC).  Almost her entire speech was made up of quotes from press releases of the ARCC.  Take a look at this quote:

“The right to autonomy includes both a woman’s right to choose to have children and a woman’s right to choose not to have children. In both circumstances, we would look to the state to provide the tools and resources to support women in their decisions.”

This seems to argue in favour of Bill C-510.  Roxanne’s Law would certainly be a tool of the state to support women in their making of autonomous decisions.  It’s really quite clear.  Crowder outlines several reasons, as taken from an ARCC press release, why this bill is not needed.  One reason is as follows:

“…counsellors already screen for possible coercion in women seeking abortion. Clinics do not perform abortions on women who are conflicted or being coerced. That protection is already in place.”

I find it hard to believe that the ARCC and MP Jean Crowder say this.  Even if women are not often coerced into having an abortion, one cannot say it never happens, as Crowder does here.  As Andrea Mrozek, Manager of Research at the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada as well as a blogger at ProWomanProLife.orgwrites in the Calgary Herald,

“There are even those who report similar stories from the pro-choice side. Antichoice is anti-awesome is the blog of a volunteer co-ordinator at an abortion clinic in New Brunswick. In February 2010, she wrote about a woman who was being forced to abort by her parents. ‘The patient clearly did not want to have an abortion; while in to have her ultrasound she freaked out about the finger prick test, and then told the nurse, her mother and anyone who would listen that it was a blessing to be pregnant, a beautiful gift from God,’ she writes.”

Coerced abortion does happen, and that is why Bill C-510 is needed.  I am glad Conservative MP Kelly Block spoke last, since she accurately described the purpose of the proposed law:

“When enacted into law, Bill C-510 will send a clear message that coercing a woman to end her pregnancy against her will is wrong. It will send a message to women that the law is there to protect them, so that if someone attempts to coerce a woman to have an abortion she does not want, she can press charges before it is too late for her and her baby.”

I would like to end by quoting Andrea Mrozek again.  I believe her article, “An abortion law we can all choose to support” (Calgary Herald, Nov. 2, 2010) very accurately frames this issue.  I especially like her last two paragraphs:

“Many women who experience an unplanned pregnancy would keep the child if they thought they had support — physical, financial or emotional. And all too often that is absent. ‘It’s your choice,’ is just another way of saying ‘I don’t care.’

No law can prevent the myriad soft coercions that push a woman toward abortion. But Roxanne’s Law is a small voice empowering at least some women who, in the face of overwhelming odds and even violence, choose to say no. That’s a choice we can all support.”


All quotations from the debate taken from a transcript of the debate on OpenParliament.ca.

N.B.  The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

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