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Conscience vote Motion 590 passes with Trudeau's support

  • June 19, 2015

OTTAWA - Justin Trudeau has joined Parliament in overwhelmingly passing a motion in Parliament in support of holding free votes on conscience matters.

A year ago the Liberal leader declared the Liberals are a pro-choice party and that its members, regardless of their personal convictions, must support party policy.

Pro-life Conservative MP Ed Komarnicki, who put forward the motion, said he was disappointed the media did not challenge Trudeau on this issue. Trudeau has claimed abortion is a Charter right and therefore his party members must support the Charter.

“The Liberal Leader indicates he supports free votes,” he said. “But he has an edict out there that anyone who has a pro-life view can’t be a candidate for the Liberal Party.”

Members of Parliament voted 273-1 June 17 in favour of Motion 590 — which is non-binding — that called for the House to approve of free votes on matters of conscience, such as abortion and euthanasia. Komarnicki believes MPs supported his motion because "there is an election coming up."  All three major party leaders voted yes to the motion.

As he had stressed in the second hour of debate on the motion June 15, Komarnicki pointed out the importance of balancing rights.

“You either believe in the Charter or you don’t. If you do, you must support it even in areas where it disagrees with your personal views," he said during the debate.

“The framers of the Charter would probably roll in their graves if they knew a leader of a recognized party picks and chooses what parts of the Charter he would like to enforce simply because he doesn’t agree with some of them."

Campaign Life Coalition’s Ottawa lobbyist Johanne Brownrigg said she was in the House of Commons for the vote to show CLC’s support for the motion and was surprised to see Trudeau vote in favour.

“Mr. Trudeau wants to tackle democratic reform in his election platform yet does he understand the basic principles of democracy? He refers to the Charter frequently but the rights embedded in the Charter did not originate in the Charter," she said. "They came from a recognition of human dignity, frankly, as is understood in Catholic teachings.”

But Brownrigg also criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has promised not to reopen the abortion debate.

“Politically, MPs often pay a price for their pro-life/pro-family votes in Parliament,” she said. “Harper is no exception. We are not pleased that the Prime Minister has refused to address this human rights violation.”

Komarnicki said when life issues, such as abortion or euthanasia, come up before a future Parliament, the House will see “that a former House by a vast majority said these types of motions or bills should have free votes.”

Mike Schouten, the director of the WeNeedaLaw.ca campaign, said in a news release the vote “is an incredibly encouraging result” that “bodes well for democracy and fair governance.”

“Freedom of conscience has undergone an evolution in the past number of years, and it has not been a positive one,” he said. “But (this) vote is a small indication that this once formidable pillar to our free and democratic society is making a comeback.”

Andrea Mrozek, executive director of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada wrote in the blog Pro-Woman/Pro-life about the support of the conscience motion by all three major party leaders despite their rejection of debate on abortion. She noted that NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has also said the right of a woman to choose abortion, which he framed as a health issue, is “not debatable, it’s not negotiable.”

“I suppose the only way to vote for conscience rights and then be stridently pro-choice is to ensure no pro-lifer ever enters your party,” said Mrozek. “And if they have a change of heart while sitting as an MP, then you boot them out or shut them up.”

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