January 15, 2015

Freedom’s not free

More than three million people marched in cities across France on Jan. 11 to decry the deaths of 17 terror victims and to publicly defend liberty and free speech. In their sheer numbers and massive support of fundamental human rights, the French people deserve the world’s praise and support.

Published in Editorial
January 2, 2015

Move forward in Cuba

Following half a century of hostility, and guided by the intervention of Pope Francis, the United States and Cuba have agreed to try to become good neighbours. The detente announced between the two nations on Dec. 17 is welcomed news to end a year that witnessed too much hatred.

Published in Editorial

WASHINGTON - Pope Francis personally appealed to President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro this year to encourage both leaders to normalize diplomatic relations, a senior Obama administration official said.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - A top Vatican official emphasized religious freedom worldwide and a peaceful solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine as urgent priorities for Europe's main security organization.

Published in International

OTTAWA - Canada is not an atheist state and society should not exhibit “an allergy against religious practice,” a lawyer argued Oct. 14 before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Published in Canada

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican formally criticized a UN committee's "grave misunderstanding" of state sovereignty and reiterated its concerns over "controversial new expressions" that threaten the unborn and religious freedom.

Published in International
August 7, 2014

Defend integrity

Doctors hold a favoured place in society because they are seen as models of compassion and integrity. They are admired as healers and moral leaders, virtuous people, widely respected. If you can’t trust your doctor, who can you trust? 

Published in Editorial

OTTAWA - This year’s National March for Life May 9 framed abortion as a human rights issue, damaging especially to women and girls, and drew the largest crowd ever.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth told journalists Sept. 17 his Motion 312 is not about abortion but whether Canada has lost its consensus on inalienable human rights and honest laws.

Woodworth admitted his private member’s motion has little chance of passing when it comes to a final vote Sept. 26 because the Prime Minister and chief government whip are on record that they will not support it because of promises they’ve made not to reopen the abortion debate.

On the opening day of the fall session of Parliament, Woodworth said Motion 312 “has much more important consequences than the abortion issue.” At stake is whether Canada has lost a consensus that the dignity and worth of every human being must be recognized, that rights are inalienable rather than granted by the government, that rights cannot be taken away through laws that deny basic human rights to a class of people by dehumanizing them and that laws must be honest, he said.

Motion 312 would strike a parliamentary committee to examine the 400-year-old definition of a human being in the Criminal Code’s homicide section concerning unborn children. For the purposes of the law, an unborn child is not a person with human rights until he or she leaves the birth canal. The committee would investigate whether this definition holds up in light of scientific evidence.

His motion specifically states the findings of the committee could not go against any Supreme Court of Canada decisions or the Constitution when it comes to women’s rights, he said.

Supreme Court Justice Bertha Wilson, who wrote the Morgentaler decision, was concerned about the rights of the unborn in later stages of pregnancy and left it open for Parliament to craft a law protecting them, and the courts have not closed the issue, he stressed.

Woodworth explained the motion, if passed, could undertake an investigation that may or may not settle the issue of when an unborn child is a human being.

“Even settling the issue of when a child should be a human being will not settle the issue of abortion,” he said.

Woodworth said one of the options of the committee could be to decide an unborn child is not a human being. His motion, however, is about universal human rights and he hoped the second hour of debate Sept. 21 would bring out that aspect.

Woodworth said he has been accused of “wanting to back to the Middle Ages,” or of opening issues that were settled by the courts. Opponents never talk about what his motion actually says, Woodworth said. No one has disagreed with the suggestion that unborn children might be human beings before birth.

“The first distraction is to talk about me, my character, my motives,” he said.

Tens of thousands of people have written their MPs in support of the motion, he said. And on Sept. 18, about 60 mainly religious and pro-life groups signed and sent a declaration in support of the motion to MPs. Among the 60 groups to sign “The Declaration of Support for Parliamentary Study of Canada’s Legal Definition of ‘Human Being’ ” were the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, the Knights of Columbus, REAL Women Canada, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and various evangelical churches.

After the news conference, journalists scrummed NDP Justice Critic Francoise Boivin who said the debate on abortion is closed. She pointed out Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken the same view and Canadians have reached a consensus. The legal definition of a human being sees the pregnant woman as one person, not two, for the purposes of the law.

Surveys have consistently shown about two-thirds of Canadians would like some law restricting abortion.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - The House of Commons voted 153-136 June 6 to repeal  Section 13, the controversial hate-crimes provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act June 6, drawing praise from the Catholic Civil Rights League.

MP Brian Storseth’s private member’s Bill C-304 now moves to the Senate where it will be shepherded through by Conservative Senator Doug Finley.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - Human rights activist and former beauty queen Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay told hundreds of religious leaders she felt blessed to be able to stand at a podium and share her faith without reprisals.

“This is not the case in all parts of the world,” she said, noting that in her native Iran, “we would be facing persecution for gathering like this.”

Published in Canada

TORONTO - When religion bumps up against somebody's human rights, the best safeguard of religious freedom is reasoned, calm and respectful dialogue, said Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Barbara Hall said.

More than two years of consultations with religious and other groups has produced a new OHRC position on how to decide cases where the rights of one party conflict with the equally recognized rights of another. The commission's 65-page "Policy on Competing Human Rights" is aimed at encouraging employers, institutions and other groups to resolve conflicts before they wind up in a tribunal hearing or a court room.

Published in Canada
April 10, 2012

Trampling on rights

Something unsettling is happening when conscience becomes a dirty word in a liberal democracy. Yet most Canadians seem unfazed by the increasing tendency to treat our fundamental right to freedom of conscience as if it were some unspeakable anti-social offence.

The denial of conscience rights to marriage commissioners in Saskatchewan, the obliteration of parental rights in Quebec, the imposition of state sexual ideology on Catholic schools in Ontario — these should all be causing deep concern. In none of these cases, after all, have the aggrieved parties taken the law into their own hands. They have not shouted fire in a crowded theatre, the time-honoured test of the limit of free speech. All they have sought is their Charter-protected right to be exempted from legal or regulatory obligations that violate their deepest and most sincerely held beliefs.

Published in Peter Stockland
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