Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau A.k. Fung, Wikimedia Commons

The thought police

  • May 14, 2014

Just as elected officials are required to uphold the law they also have the right, and sometimes the duty, to advocate for reform. That doesn’t mean they’ll get their way — and most times they don’t — but in a free and democratic society it does mean they can follow their conscience, act on principle, voice reasonable opinions and, hopefully, not be judged for their beliefs, particularly those founded in faith.

That is why Justin Trudeau’s new policy to ban pro-life supporters from even trying to run for office as Liberals is troubling. It imposes an Orwellian protocol that conjures images of a thought police hunting down those whose conscience does not align with the party leader. Let’s be clear: the policy does not only punish party members who publicly cross the boss; it totally ostracizes those who merely hold a contrary belief on abortion, a belief that is widely held in Canada.

This new policy requires prospective Liberal candidates to pass a screening process that asks them their view on abortion. If they oppose the current Canadian reality in which abortion is permitted at any time for any reason from conception to birth, they will be frozen out. It won’t matter if this belief is founded in faith or science or conscience. Anyone who questions the party’s all-abortion, all-the-time policy will be bounced as a Liberal candidate.

The leaders of Canada’s main political parties claim the abortion debate has been settled. Quite the opposite is true. The debate on this contentious public issue has been simmering since a 1988 Supreme Court decision sent the matter back to Parliament so MPs could draft Charter-compliant legislation. Instead, after a couple of failed attempts, successive governments have sidestepped the topic despite polls that consistently indicate Canadians — although generally in favour of some level of abortion — want regulation.

This new Liberal policy goes a step further by banning members from not only questioning current laws, but by decreeing Liberal candidates can no longer even think that the party’s unequivocal pro-choice position is faulty. The policy seems to apply even to those who are mostly pro-choice but want laws to end sex-selection abortion or those who oppose late-term abortions. Polls consistently show that Canadians, even pro-choicers, overwhelmingly want regulation in these two areas.

The Liberal Party was once the preferred party for Catholic voters and candidates. For many reasons, that support has declined over the years. Now this new policy will virtually exclude practising Catholics from seeking election as a Liberal — just as it will disqualify many devout Protestants, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and Hindus, and anyone who must reconcile politics with personal faith or conscience.

It is hard to see how any of that makes this policy good for Canada.

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