Courtesy of Rachael Harder, Lethbridge Alberta MP

MP Rachael Harder shunned by committee due to pro-life beliefs

  • October 3, 2017

OTTAWA – A former chair of the Status of Women committee has joined a chorus which is denouncing a Liberal and NDP walkout due to the pro-life views of the new chair.

“We have freedom of religion. We have freedom of speech,” said Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu, the former committee chair. “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. The Liberals are always saying we are stronger with our diversity. Do they mean just if you agree with them?”

On Sept. 26, Liberal and NDP MPs stormed out of a meeting rather than vote on the Conservative nominee for chair, 30-year-old Lethbridge MP Rachael Harder. Their action raised questions about whether the Liberals want to impose a pro-abortion litmus test on all Members of Parliament.

In an editorial, the Globe and Mail objected to a so-called “purity test” for Members of Parliament.

“We would be among the first to oppose any attempt to curtail Canadians' hard-won right to abortion,” said 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.”

Kate Harrison of the website iPolitics called the move a victory for “intolerance.”

“It’s like a politicized scene from Mean Girls: ‘You can’t sit with us,’” she wrote.

Harder declined to comment but her office pointed to a statement by Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer.

“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 reporters.

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 be able to communicate and articulate our work,” said NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson.

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, control the agenda and could have voted against Harder’s nomination, 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.

“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,” Mrozek said.

Johanne Brownrigg, in charge of government relations for Campaign Life Coalition, said it “appeared childish.”

“Why grown women would not debate and argue and defend their point of view is certainly not representative of the women I know,” she said.

Anna Nienhuis of We Need a Law said Harder’s treatment represented “a breakdown in democracy where dissenting voices are feared and silenced.”

“If the Liberals and NDP were so certain of the rightness of their position, they would not fear a different opinion,” she said in a press release.

“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.”

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