An OCTransit bus. Wikimedia Commons

Pro-life views deemed problematic for volunteer Ottawa transit post

  • February 8, 2019

OTTAWA – A pro-life group is calling for the resignation of an Ottawa city councillor who opposed a candidate for Ottawa’s Transit Commission because of his pro-life beliefs.

“It’s laughable that an elected representative would actually believe that in order to be pro-transit you have to be pro-abortion,” said Alissa Golob, co-founder of the political pro-life group It Starts Right Now.

Councillor Shawn Menard was at the centre of the controversy after he referred to Michael Olsen’s “significant advocacy” for pro-life groups during a council meeting Jan. 30. The city clerk quickly ended the discussion, saying any questions around religious beliefs would violate a candidate’s charter rights.

Olsen was ultimately approved for the volunteer position by a 16-7 vote. 

“I’ve got serious concerns about this,” Coun. Allan Hubley, chair of the Transit Commission, said. He noted a person’s beliefs, in this case his or her religious beliefs, have nothing to do with the transit commission position, nor “for any job with the city.”

Hubley has demanded Menard apologize, but said that Menard is “refusing to do so.”

Menard said he regrets bringing the matter up publicly on council, and pivoted to say it was really Olsen’s views on climate change that were problematic.

“The fact that Mr. Menard stood up and opposed a volunteer for the Ottawa Transit Commission because he was pro-life signifies he is unfit for public office due to his unabashed discrimination and bigotry,” said Golob.

“If Mr. Menard believes that pro-life Canadians are unfit to be volunteers for public transit commissions, does he also believe we are unfit to ride the actual transit, or will he just make us sit at the back of the bus?” 

Olsen had filled out Campaign Life Coalition’s (CLC) questionnaire during an unsuccessful run for trustee for the Ottawa Catholic District School Board last year. He answered all the questions “correctly,” according to CLC, including one opposing abortion under all circumstances. 

“CLC is appalled by the lack of respect of the right to the freedom of thought and the freedom of expression manifested by the seven councillors of the City of Ottawa that voted against Mr. Olsen as a volunteer member of the city’s Transit Commission,” said Debbie Duval, CLC National Capital Organizer. “It seems now that as citizens we can’t be defenders of human life or have an opinion on the weather without fear of being refused a job or volunteer position. What is the next viewpoint that will be unacceptable?” 

Mayor Jim Watson chalked up Menard’s move to “inexperience,” since he was only recently elected.

However, pro-life Canadians were not so quick to dismiss Menard’s comments.

Jennifer Snell said she was distraught at the news. 

“He was the slaughtered lamb because his name was used publicly in a very disingenuous way,” he said.

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