Seven former Liberal MPs have demanded current leader Justin Trudeau rescind the policy requiring Liberal MPs to support abortion rights. Photo by Michael Swan.

Trudeau’s ‘dictatorial stand’ attacked

  • September 24, 2014

Former Liberal MPs demand leader rescind abortion policy

OTTAWA - A group of former Liberal MPs has publicly called on Justin Trudeau to “rescind” his policy requiring all Liberal MPs to support abortion rights. 

In the letter published Sept. 18, the seven former MPs expressed concern over Trudeau’s demand Liberal candidates must “agree to park their consciences at the entrance to the House of Commons and vote directly opposite to their fundamental beliefs, as directed by you.” 

The MPs warned that if the policy is allowed, “it will stand as a precedent for you, and future Liberal leaders, to issue similar edicts on other moral issues, such as being either for or against assisted suicide, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, animal/human genetic splicing/mixing and many such issues which we cannot even imagine today, but which may develop as our technological knowledge increases at an ever more rapid pace. 

“After all, if the leader can ban people from running for the party because they are opposed to abortion, then why not because they advocate euthanasia, or agree with human cloning, or are opposed to either or both these concepts? Where does one draw the line?” wrote Pat O’Brien, Garnet Bloomfield, Murray Calder, Rex Crawford, John O’Reilly, Janko Peric and Tom Wappel. 

“We understand timing,” said O’Brien. Parliament has just resumed sitting after the summer break and MPs are “very attuned to what they heard over the summer from constituents. 

“They heard grumblings throughout the summer from people, from traditional Liberal supporters, on Trudeau’s dictatorial stand denying people the right to vote their conscience,” O’Brien said. “We thought we would deliver the message when (Trudeau’s) attention would be the sharpest.” 

The former MPs, most of whom sat in the House of Commons during the 1990s and early 2000s, described the position as “undemocratic” and contrary to a longstanding policy within the Liberal Party to allow free votes on conscience issues. 

“For you to fully reverse this wise, long-held position of all your predecessors, without any cogent reason, legal or otherwise, has the potential to alienate many former Liberal voters,” they wrote. 

Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes applauded the group’s demand that Trudeau “retract his ‘no choice, but pro-choice’ position on future Liberal candidates.” 

“All MPs who believe in democracy should be as outspoken as these former MPs, against any leader who dictates how they ought to speak and vote if they wish to join a particular party,” said Hughes. 

Trudeau, however, shows no sign of revising his position. In an interview Sept. 14 with CBC’s Michael Enright, Trudeau said “the rights that women have fought for over decades to be in control of their own bodies and to control their own reproductive health is not a right that I’m going to brush aside to defend the freedom of speech or the freedom to vote a particular way for an MP.” 

“A Liberal MP can still have his personal, his or her personal beliefs and personal faith,” he said. “But they cannot vote to take away women’s fundamental rights. That’s all I’ve said.” 

“I’d like him to show me where that right is defined in law,” said O’Brien. “There’s nothing in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteeing a woman has the ‘right’ to choose (abortion). The Supreme Court of Canada never guaranteed the right to abortion either.” 

O’Brien expressed concern Trudeau has “shrunk the once big Liberal tent into a pup tent.” Where there was once room in the party for a wide range of views on every issue, including moral issues, “he’s shifted the Liberal Party way over to the left wing.” 

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