Taking the Long View on Pre-born Human Rights

28 Mar 2017 Taking the Long View on Pre-born Human Rights

Feature: This week, a conversation with We Need a Law’s director Mike Schouten, about an effort to introduce an “International Standards” abortion law in Parliament.

Alberta Baptist schools forced to affirm new sexual orthodoxy: The Alberta government is doubling down on two Baptist schools near Edmonton, trying to force them to guarantee gay-straight alliance clubs in their schools.

Jason Kenney wins Alberta PC leadership: Former Calgary MP wins Alberta PC Leadership race. We talk to one of the delegates who was at the convention.

Canadian doctors harvesting organs from euthanized patients: What happens when people who’ve agreed to doctor-assisted death, and who have also agreed to donate their organs, have a change of heart at the last moment?

Was last week’s federal budget family friendly?: Andrea Mrozek from Cardus Family looks at a couple of key family-related initiatives in last week’s federal budget.

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Alberta Baptist schools forced to affirm new sexual orthodoxy

Lawyer John Carpay for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

Alberta Education Minister David Eggen has issued what amounts to an ultimatum to two small Baptist schools near Edmonton on the issue of so-called Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs (GSAs). Alberta legislation requires schools to allow the institution of those clubs if even one student asks for them. The principal of the Baptist schools has openly said he will not comply with that. Now, Minister Eggen has published a Ministerial Order which tells the schools they must comply. The Order came after Eggen released a report which argues the schools should lose their accreditation if they continue to defy the government.

John Carpay from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is acting for the schools and says this Ministerial Order is extremely heavy-handed. “The schools are complying with the legislation,” Carpay says. “The only way they would be in non-compliance would be if there’s a student that asked to start a Gay-Straight Alliance, and the school refused to do that. Then you’d have a situation where the law is not being followed.” However, Carpay says, these schools “have a problem with a law that orders them to set up clubs and activities that are hostile to the mission and vision and values and purpose of the school.”

The government cannot violate the right of parents to decide the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

Carpay says if this matter ends up in court, he’s pretty sure Bill 10 – which is the law that mandates those GSA clubs – will be found unconstitutional. “The Supreme Court (of Canada), in the Loyola case, said that parents have a right to transmit their faith and their values to their children, and schools have a Charter right to provide the kind of atmosphere and culture and learning environment that parents want. The government cannot violate the right of parents to decide the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

It’s not clear yet if this case is going to court, but ARPA is looking at the legal and constitutional implications of the Ministerial Order, and considering applying for intervener status if this case ends up before a judge.

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Kenney wins Alberta PC leadership

Jason Kenney, leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta

There’s considerable optimism among social conservatives in Alberta right now. Earlier this month, former federal Member of Parliament Jason Kenney was elected the new leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative party. He ran on a platform of “uniting the right” – bringing the Alberta PC’s and the Wildrose Party back into a single organization to campaign against the NDP in that province’s next election. Kenney won the leadership at a delegated convention, garnering about 75% of the vote on the first ballot.

Kenney has a long history of supporting socially conservative policy positions in his days in the federal Parliament.

In my opinion he will live up to our expectations  

John Voorhorst was one of the delegates at the leadership convention, and he’s optimistic Kenney won’t back down on the important issues. “In my opinion he will live up to our expectations because even in his acceptance speech he made mention – and not just in passing, but deliberate mention – of the work that the current government is doing on the school curriculum; that they’re doing this work in secret, and that this is something that he wants to address very quickly.”

The day after the leadership vote, the left-wing “Press Progress” website published a piece critical of Kenney’s past policy positions. It was entitled “6 Severely Abnormal Things Jason Kenney Says He Believes“. Among those “severely abnormal” things was the notion that government gets its authority from God, that CO2 emissions are good, and that public schools brainwash children with anti-conservative beliefs. Voorhorst says the attacks are not surprising, but he doesn’t expect Kenney to cave under the pressure. “I believe he can survive (this criticism),” Voorhorst says, “because I believe that the general populace in Alberta is going to come aggressively to his defence, and that we’re not going to stand for this kind of attack like we might have two or four years ago.”

Kenney’s next challenge is to find a way to form a new party with the cooperation of Wildrose Leader Brian Jean; both men have indicated they would run for the leadership of that group. Alternatively, they could try to merge the Wildrose and PC brands; there’s ongoing legal research on whether that would even be a possibility under Alberta elections law.

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Canadian doctors harvesting organs from euthanized patients

ARPA's Director of Law and Policy, André Schutten

The National Post published an article last week about one of the unintended consequences of the legalization of euthanasia in Canada. The article, headlined “Doctors Harvesting Organs from Canadian Patients who underwent Medically Assisted Death”, outlines the ethical dilemma that’s starting to crop up in particular euthanasia cases.

The article poses the question: “what if people agree to donate (their organs), but then change their mind about hastening death? Would they feel compelled to follow through with the act, knowing the chosen recipients are waiting for their organs?”

those vulnerable people are now extra-vulnerable because of this allowance of organ donation

ARPA’s Director of Law and Policy, André Schutten, says the article goes to one of the fundamental problems that has arisen with the removal of euthanasia from the Criminal Code. “The criminal law exists to protect individuals who are vulnerable – who are most susceptible to these kinds of pressures. And so when we changed the Criminal Code and said there’s now a class of people for whom assisted suicide is available, those are going to be, for the most part, vulnerable people. And those vulnerable people are now extra-vulnerable because of this allowance of organ donation.” He says the situation is “just a mess.”

Jennifer Chandler, a professor in the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa, told the National Post that “it would be very important to make it very clear to people that they can change their mind at any time”, and that they wouldn’t have to stick with their original decision to consent to euthanasia just because the transplant process has been set in motion.

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Was federal budget 2017 family friendly? An expert weighs in

Andrea Mrozek, Program Director - Cardus Family

The Trudeau government unveiled the second budget of its mandate last week. There’s still no plan to balance the books. The deficit projection for the current fiscal year is at $23-billion, and that goes up to $28.5 billion next year. There were a couple of initiatives with regard to families. Andrea Mrozek with Cardus Family says one of those family initiatives is worth supporting. It relates to parental benefits and maternity leave, where parents can now take a lower payout over 18 months instead of 12 months at a higher payout. Expectant mothers can also go on maternity leave up to 12 weeks earlier.

However, she says, there’s a huge problem with the other major family-related announcement, which is a pledge to spend $7-billion dollars over the next 10 years on what amounts to a national day care plan. Mrozek says the proposal puts money into one form of child care. She calls that “inequitable” because parents should instead have the money in their pockets to choose to pay a family member, hire a nanny, or working part-time. “Earmarking billions of dollars for one form of care is not a fair way to help families,” she says.

However, Mrozek adds, the government acknowledged that the plan was part of a broader goal of “increasing workplace participation.” She says that would be a “major take-away for Canadian families; to understand that this is not about children, it’s not about child care, it’s not for the benefit of children. It really is about…ensuring that mothers of young children can get out into the paid labour force as quickly as possible.”

Earmarking billions of dollars for one form of care is not a fair way to help families  

Other budget highlights include a promise of more than $3-billion dollars over the next five years to improve socio-economic conditions on First Nations reserves, and a decision to defer almost $8.5 billion dollars in defence spending.

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LN Feature: Taking the Long View on Pre-born Human Rights

Mike Schouten, Director of Advocacy

On the feature this week, a conversation with We Need a Law director Mike Schouten, about a proposal his organization is putting forward for an “International Standards” abortion law.

We talk about the history of the law, and the long-term plans to have it passed.

LN: Last year, Parliament had the discussion about Cassie and Molly’s Law – that was the big push. Last week, we had John Sikkema on the program, and he made mention of this International Standards abortion law. I know it’s something we’ve been working on, but it’s not something we’ve given a lot of time or coverage to on Lighthouse News, so I thought I’d give you a call and just see what that’s about, and how this is going to move forward. What are we doing on this file?

MS: Well essentially, when John talks about – and others talk about – an International Standards abortion law, what we’re referring to is a full-on abortion bill that’s modeled after regulations in many other jurisdictions around the world. We’ve particularly honed in on three European countries; France, Spain, and Germany. It’s a comprehensive abortion law that includes things like mandatory waiting periods, mandatory reporting, (and) sometimes mandatory counseling depending on the situation. But the key component is that it ensures that abortions are prohibited after a certain gestational age. And the International Standards bill that we’re promoting – and we have a draft copy available on our website – it would prohibit abortions after 13 weeks of pregnancy. This essentially is modeled after Spain, France, and Germany, which all prohibit abortion after 12 weeks gestation, which is after the first trimester.

LN: So how do we move this forward? Last year we had – as I said – Cassie and Molly’s Law. That came forward at the behest of Cathay Wagantall from Yorkton-Melville in Saskatchewan. Do we have MP’s that are prepared to put a bill like this into the process paper/order paper on Parliament Hill?

MS: At this point in time, there is no MP who is willing to champion this particular bill. But that’s not to say that an MP won’t come forward in the next 6, 8, 12, (or) 18 months’ time. In fact, this might even be something that an MP won’t pick up until after the next election cycle has concluded in 2019. But one of the reasons why we are starting to promote it already is because we know that in order to advance public policy, sometimes these bills are going to have to be introduced time and time again before it becomes self-evident to the Canadian public and to our elected lawmakers that this in fact should be part of Canada’s public policy in regards to protecting preborn human rights at some stage of pregnancy.

LN: So we’re taking the long view here. That’s what I’m hearing you say. I mean, there’s kind of a horizon out there, and it may take a while to get this done.

MS: Absolutely, and that’s something that I believe is consistent with how We Need a Law has approached things in the political realm of the pro-life movement. We need to see this as a long road, and one of the challenges is convincing elected lawmakers – convincing MP’s – that they also need to play into that long road.

And what I mean when I say this is that by introducing a Private Member’s bill that you know is not going to pass…does not mean that this is a fail. And one of the reasons we’re convinced that this can work is because the other side does it all the time.

For example, many of your listeners will know the name Svend Robinson. They will recognize that name. Now Svend Robinson never served in Cabinet. He was never part of a party that formed government. But yet, everything that Svend Robinson championed through Private Member’s bills – everything he championed – is now public policy in Canada. Whether it’s abortion rights, trans-gender rights, gay rights, hate speech laws, gay marriage. All of these things are now public policy in Canada. Not because his Private Member’s bills passed, but because he was persistent in introducing them time and time again. It forced Canadians to deal with this topic time and time again. It forced the public office-holders in Ottawa to debate it. It forced the media to cover it. So these are things we need to accept as a reality when we’re advancing pre-born human rights legislation; that it might take three or four times of introducing this International Standards abortion law before whatever government of the day is in place says: “You know what? We should just make this part of our policy, and implement it as we’re sitting here in government.”

LN: What about the criticism – and we’ve had this discussion before – about the whole “incrementalism” piece. There are some in the pro-life movement who look at a bill like this – a bill that provides some gestational limits, but doesn’t outright ban abortion – and they say it’s “not good enough.”

MS: We have to accept that that is the reality. That there will be people in the pro-life movement who are on the same page as us when it comes to “human life starts at conception and needs to be protected” that will not support this. We need to fully accept that, and be prepared for that. I’m convinced that there are less and less of those people than even when I started this work five years ago. But it’s another actually very important reason why as a country, we have the opportunity to debate a bill like this. We have had many opportunities to debate Private Member’s bills, whether it be anti-coercion bills or something like you mentioned off the top; Cassie and Molly’s Law, which did little to impact abortion, did little to actually protect pre-born children. This (International Standards) bill, for example, would protect pre-born children after 13 weeks. Fifteen percent of the abortions in Canada – so over 15,000 abortions every year – occur past that point.

LN: Final question. Ultimate goals here. I know the ultimate goal is to get the law passed, but timelines. You say it may take two or three tries to get this done. Do we have, mentally, a goal that says for example “by 2020, we want this bill passed?” Or is it a case of “we’re going to take it as it comes”?

MS: We’re of the mindset right now that we need to focus on building support for the introduction of this the very first time, and our goal is that this would be introduced prior to the next election. So put on the Notice Paper this fall or next spring, or maybe even late spring/summer (of next year). Because we want Canadians to have the opportunity to debate it before the next election. And then the goal would be that right after the next election to find somebody to introduce it and champion it through Parliament once again. So we’re really taking this one step by one step.

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