Justin Trudeau’s proclamation that all Liberal candidates must be pro-life is just plain wrong. Photo by Michael Swan.

No place for state in personal beliefs of nation

By 
  • May 14, 2014

Just before Christmas, 1967, then-justice minister Pierre Trudeau famously said: “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Agree or disagree with his sentiments about what consenting adults do behind closed doors, his message was clear: Canada is a free society, not some dictatorship that will impose its will upon the private beliefs and actions of people.

His son, Justin, was not born at the time so he obviously didn’t hear what his dad said. But given his recent statement on abortion, we have to wonder whether he ever read or understood what his father meant.

On May 7, the Liberal leader dictated publicly that all new candidates running for nomination to the Liberal Party for next year’s election must support the party’s pro-choice position. This new policy is saying there is no choice except pro-choice for Liberals.

If, in your heart, mind and soul you are a Liberal with pro-life beliefs, in any way, shape or form, you’re no longer welcome to run as a candidate as a Liberal. If you concur with the Catholic Church’s pro-life position (or other religions sharing the same view), go someplace else, even if you hold many other Liberal points of view.

(He did a Trudeau-pirouette and said the same rule does not apply to current Liberal MPs. But what sitting Liberal with any gumption who is pro-life can run again under this policy about something so personal and private in each individual’s life?)

“I have made it clear that future candidates need to be completely understanding that they will be expected to vote pro-choice on any bills,” Trudeau told reporters before pro-life marches across the country.

What’s next? Will other policies ban people from the party based on other deeply held personal beliefs? Will other policies exclude candidates of faith, whichever faith they profess? Could deeply held personal views on capital punishment, same-sex marriage or physician-assisted suicide be an entry or exit to politics?

After this new policy was announced, I couldn’t help but think of one of my favourite aunts, who is made of grace and class.

For at least 60 years she has voted Liberal and given hundreds, perhaps thousands, of volunteer hours working to get Liberals elected over the years. She has always voted Liberal. But she is also very much pro-life. What will she do with her vote in the 2015 federal election? What will the thousands and thousands of Catholics like her across Canada do with their votes?

Not only is Trudeau’s abortion policy counter to his father’s views on individual freedoms, it’s also a move that pushes Canada ever-closer toward a polarized political system, much like what has been choking Washington the past three decades.

If you’re pro-life you must be Conservative and if you’re pro-choice you must be Liberal, according to Trudeau. (NDP leader Thomas Mulcair affirmed his party’s pro-choice position but I know of New Democrat MPs who are devout Catholics.) It is just plain wrong to be advocating these types of authoritarian policies.

Recognizing we have a parliamentary system where party members are sometimes “whipped” to vote certain ways, do we really want each party stuffed with automatons who simply do what they’re told and never question their party leaders?

Isn’t this what Liberals have long complained about the current government in Ottawa and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of doing to Conservative backbenchers?

Sure, party politics means members must vote with their party to either keep the government going or to defeat a government. But we’re not talking here about voting for or against money to buy government helicopters. We’re not talking about voting for or against building a new jail in this riding or that riding.

We’re talking about one of the central and highly personal issues of our times. Parliamentary democracy should be above this. On another central issue in different times, where would the world be if then back-bencher Winston Churchill was not the staunchest critic of his Conservative government’s 1930s’ policies towards Adolf Hitler?

Justin Trudeau may hold a view on abortion that is counter to the Church he was baptized in, but he should not be promoting a policy to force Liberals to either abandon their party or their principles if they believe something else.

(Brehl is a writer in Port Credit, Ont., and can be reached at bob@ abc2.ca.)

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