Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall.

MPs pledge support for pregnancy centres

By 
  • April 15, 2022

A key focus for the Conservative Party moving forward will be advocating for crisis pregnancy centres, say MPs who expect the Liberal government to revoke the charitable status from these centres. 

“We are discussing it in the priority that it needs to be as things move forward,” said Saskatchewan MP Cathay Wagantall. “Unfortunately, this government sends out signals of what they are planning to do, and there definitely is no question they are not supportive of the incredible work our crisis pregnancy centres do.”

Wagantall and colleague Arnold Viersen were among the Conservative MPs who attended a Parliament Hill rally in November to learn about the financial threat confronting Canadian pregnancy care centres because of a Liberal Party platform promise to remove charitable status for pro-life organizations. They pledged to  fight for financial certainty for these centres and all pro-life charities.

Campaign Life Coalition presented the politicians with a petition demanding MPs oppose any bill, motion or regulatory policy that seeks to punish pro-life entities. This document had already attracted 14,000 signatures at the time.

Wagantall says advocating for at-risk non-profits is a key focus for the Official Opposition as its members await the Liberals, with the support of New Democrats, to make a move. Specifically, Wagantall and her colleagues plan on presenting the Campaign Life petition to the House of Commons for the parliamentary record. Instead of one MP presenting the appeal of numerous petitioners, Wagantall said ideally many of her fellow party members will wish to speak on this issue.

Viersen, from Alberta’s Peace River-Westlock riding, said the situation looming for charities is a bit reminiscent of the 2018 Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program application controversy that saw numerous pro-life, religious and other non-profits receive zero funding for not attesting public support for abortion. Viersen expects the Liberal government will blindside the charities just like it did in 2018.

“We are suspicious that something like that is going to happen with the charitable status,” said the Barrhead, Alta. native. “What we’re not certain of is what the mechanism will be.”

Like the CSJ situation, Viersen expects Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet to implement its plan targeting charitable status guidelines with minimal warning.

“It kind of comes out of nowhere. Last time with the Canada Summer Jobs, we found out only when people filling out the form ended up contacting us.”

A couple of potential methods Viersen thinks the government could use is adding a requirement in the charity status application document to state support for pro-choice ideology, or the government could choose to deliver revocation notices to these pro-life charities directly.

Mandate letters issued in December by Trudeau to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien perhaps provide a clue to the regulatory structure harnessed. The letter instructs the ministers to collaborate in “introducing amendments to the Income Tax Act to make anti-abortion organizations that provide dishonest counselling to pregnant women about their rights and options ineligible for charitable status.”

While the charity status threat to crisis pregnancy centres has drawn the most mainstream media coverage, Viersen said the conversation over this issue must broaden to encompass all aid organizations. 

“This is much broader because the Liberal platform said, ‘for example, crisis pregnancy centres.’ That’s the example that they are using and that is what they want to be talking about, but the reality is that any charity not supporting abortions may be at risk of losing its charitable status. It could be your local church, homeless shelter, food bank, summer camp.”

Viersen, Wagantall and their fellow Conservatives seek to move forward working on behalf of charities while acclimating to a new relational dynamic on Parliament Hill. On March 22, the Liberals and NDP forged an official governance deal that guarantees the NDP’s fidelity in keeping Trudeau’s party in power until 2025 in exchange for key NDP legislative proposals becoming enshrined in law.

Wagantall anticipates challenges with this new arrangement, but also opportunities “to champion all the ways that charities make life better for Canadians, and don’t cost the government money.”

“Canada is well known for its incredible volunteerism, and a lot of that is done through charities.”

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