OTTAWA (CCN)—A dust-up at the Status of Women Committee has raised questions whether the Liberals want to impose a pro-abortion litmus test on all Members of Parliament.
On Sept. 26, Liberal and NDP MPs stormed out of a meeting of the Status of Women Committee rather than vote on the Conservative nominee for chair, Lethbridge MP Rachael Harder, 30, whom Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has also named as his Status of Women critic in his shadow cabinet.
On Oct. 3, the Liberal-dominated committee voted another Conservative, MP Karen Vecchio, as chair, against her will.
“For Justin Trudeau to say a Member of Parliament is unfit to hold a procedural position because she doesn’t agree with his personal position is ridiculous,” said a joint-statement from Vecchio and Harder after the meeting. “It’s disappointing that Justin Trudeau would act this way and his actions demonstrate the intolerance of the Liberal Party of Canada, which claims to value diversity.”
The MPs went on to
say the Tories could accept the “democratic will of the committee” and
“commit to working on behalf of all women in Canada, regardless of their
The Liberal treatment of Harder prompted even the Globe and Mail to publish an editorial against a so-called “purity test” for Members of Parliament. Many other pundits have also raised concerns.
“We would be among the first to oppose any attempt to curtail Canadians' hard-won right to abortion,” said the Globe in an Oct. 1 editorial. “But we also oppose any government that demands ideological purity from an MP in order for her to hold a position for which she is otherwise qualified.”
Over at iPolitics, Kate Harrison called the move a victory for “intolerance.”
“The message from the Liberals for any woman who holds views similar to Harder’s is clear: If you don’t think exactly as we do, you’re not welcome here,” Harrison wrote on the online politics website. “It’s like a politicized scene from Mean Girls: ‘You can’t sit with us.’”
“We have freedom of religion; we have freedom of speech,” said Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu, the former chair of the Status of Women Committee. “You can’t say someone can’t be chair because they hold a certain view. This is not acceptable.”
“I was taken aback at the intolerance,” Gladu said. “The Liberals are always saying we are stronger with our diversity. Do they mean just if you agree with them?”
Harder was unavailable for an interview, but her office pointed to a statement of Scheer’s in a scrum Sept. 26 where he defended his choice for committee chair.
“...It’s certainly unprecedented that the Prime Minister would interfere and block the nomination of a democratically elected Member of Parliament to serve as Chair of a committee,” Scheer told journalists. “I think (it) shows a lack of respect for the parliamentary process. It’s very unfortunate.”
Liberal and NDP MPs defended their actions.
“The Opposition Leader chose someone who is not pro-choice, who has voted against rights for trans people in our country, and those are not views that the Liberal members of this committee can support as chair,” said Liberal MP Pam Damoff in a fundraising email.
"The chair is the spokesperson for our work and it’s impossible for a spokesperson of an all-parliamentary committee where reproductive choice is at the foundation of women’s equality … to be able to communicate and articulate our work,” said NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson.
But Gladu pointed out the role of chair is largely procedural and has no impact on the topics discussed. The Liberals hold a majority on the committee; they could have voted against her nomination, and they control the agenda, she said.
“I think this might be overreach on the part of the Liberals,
because it does come across as extraordinarily heavy-handed,” said
Cardus Family program director Andrea Mrozek.
Mrozek said it “looks really bad to tell [Harder] she’s got the wrong views so we’re not even going to talk to you.”
For International Women’s Day last March, Cardus Family released a study showing 60 per cent of women believe it’s possible to be feminist and pro-life, Mrozek said.
“The poll also showed 60 per cent of women and 61 per cent of men do not think any one organization can speak on behalf of all Canadian women,” she said.
Mrozek said she longs for a return to the days when the talking points on the other side were that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.”
“But today, to use the words ‘safe, legal and rare’ casts aspersion on the purported beauty of abortion,” Mrozek said. “I can’t believe how extreme these people are, but they are portrayed as being mainstream. These are not the talking points of even a decade ago.”
“The problem isn’t that [Harder] is pro-life; the problem is they are pro-abortion, and only see advocating for women through that lens,” said Johanne Brownrigg, in charge of government relations for Campaign Life Coalition. “To me it appeared childish, and why grown women would not debate and argue and defend their point of view is certainly not representative of the women I know.”
“I think it’s a ploy and the Liberals are simply trying to take the focus off the serious taxation debates that are taking place,” she said.
“Trudeau’s policy of feminism as founded on abortion rights has led to a breakdown in democracy where dissenting voices are feared and silenced,” said We Need a Law’s Anna Nienhuis in a release. “If the Liberals and NDP were so certain of the rightness of their position, they would not fear a different opinion.”
“It also seems that they’ve forgotten that Ms. Harder is a woman herself, a woman who does not believe her equality rests in her access to abortion, a belief many of us Canadian women hold very strongly.”
“No sane person believes that all men think alike,” said REAL Women of Canada in a release. “So why do they hold such a peculiar standard for women?”
The women who walked out “disgraced all women by their actions, and insulted our intelligence, integrity and independence,” the independent pro-family and pro-life women’s group said, noting most women are not “obsessed” with abortion, nor is there any “right to abortion” according to either the Supreme Court of Canada or any United Nations treaty.
“Unless and until the Status of Women Committee is prepared to listen to the differing voices of all women in Canada, it should be disbanded,” REAL Women said.