Trudeau Sr. and Trudeau Jr. on abortion and the Charter

By Brian Lilly

Trudeau Jr. is squirming over the issue he raised and jumped right into just shy of two weeks ago.

And as you will see if you read to the bottom, Trudeau Jr. has put himself offside his own father’s stated words, record and promises. While Jr. runs around talking about abortion being a Charter right, Sr. talked about using the not withstanding clause to block abortion in Canada.

But first some background to set it up.

For reasons that escape most sane people Justin Trudeau went further than any Liberal leader in the past and declared that any future Liberal candidates would have to be pro-choice. While noting pro-life members of his current caucus and saying he respected the beliefs of Liberal MP John McKay, Trudeau said new candidates would have to hold his view on abortion.

“I also know that moving forward, the party that we’re building is – and that we’re continuing to build as we form government will be resolutely pro-choice,” Trudeau said to reporters after his weekly caucus meeting on May 7th.

A week later on May 14th Trudeau was again talking about this issue in response to criticism that he had received. He said at that point that other views were welcome but everyone would have to vote this way.
I encourage and am pleased that there are always a wide range of views within the Liberal Party because the Liberal Party is representative of the country as a whole, and that’s a good thing.  But the Liberal Party is also the party of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and with our votes we will defend that Charter and that’s what every Liberal who walks into this House of Commons needs to understand and do understand that in the matter of defending women’s rights our votes are clear.  We defend the Charter.

Except as others have already pointed out there is no constitutional right to an abortion, the courts have never said there was. I know reading is hard for some but truly the major court decisions on abortion in this country do invite Parliament to legislate if Parliament sees fit. So there goes his Charter argument.

So Trudeau reached once again into his bag of tricks and pulled out his late father. Here is part of a message that went out to Liberal supporters this weekend.
I had an extraordinary example in a father who had deeply, deeply held personal views that were informed by the fact that he went to church every Sunday, read the Bible regularly to us, and raised us very religiously, as Catholics.

But at the same time my father had no problem legalizing divorce, decriminalizing homosexuality and moving in ways that recognized the basic rights of the people.

He too held fast to his beliefs. But he also understood that as leaders, as political figures, and as representatives of a larger community, our utmost responsibility is to stand up for people’s rights.

There is some truth in that and a good dose of revisionist history. Trudeau Sr. also had to deal with this issue and with questions from the Roman Catholic Cardinal in Toronto. He wrote to Cardinal Carter in 1981, as documented in an Ottawa Citizen article dated April 15, 1989 and penned by Marjorie Nichols.
In a letter dated Dec.  21, 1981 to G. Emmett Cardinal Carter, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toronto, Trudeau said that the government of Canada would never allow the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to dictateabortion policy. The cardinal had been lobbying for a right-to-life amendment to the Charter.
Here are the salient parts of that Trudeau letter:
“… Since the November 2, 1981 Conference of First Ministers, Parliament’s authority has been strengthened by the addition of the notwithstanding clause to the Charter.
“Should a court decide at some future date that sections 7 or 15 do establish a right to abortion on demand, Parliament will continue to legislate on the matter by overriding the court’s decision and the specific Charter right as interpreted by the court.“

So Trudeau Sr. stated in plain language that he supported using the not-withstanding clause to block abortion. Maybe he changed his mind on the issue after the Morgentaler ruling but here is Justin’s father ruling himself out of membership in today’s Liberal party.

I wonder what Jr. thinks about all of this. Chances are we will have three different answers by the end of the week.

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