Canada: MPs Not Allowed to Vote to Condemn Sex-Selection Abortions

International   Steven Ertelt   Mar 21, 2013   |   3:31PM    Ottawa, Canada

Leading pro-life advocates in Canada are upset the Canadian Parliament will not allow members to vote on a motion to condemn the practice of sex-selection abortions.

On September 27, 2012, Member of Parliament Mark Warawa introduced Motion M-408. The motion reads simply, “That the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.”

But today, the Subcommittee met to determine whether the Motion was votable, which would have permitted it to proceed for debate in the House of Commons.

“The decision made today to declare Motion M-408 as non-votable by Parliament is lamentable,” explains Faye Sonier, Legal Counsel with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

Sonier told LifeNews: “The motion calling on Parliament to condemn the practice of sex-selection pregnancy termination was simple, straight-forward and non-confrontational. As a lawyer who follows Parliamentary business, I was quite surprised that the Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business unanimously found that the motion didn’t satisfy the votability criteria for private members’ bills.”

“The criteria for votability is quite simple,” explains Don Hutchinson, EFC Vice-President and General Legal Counsel.

Hutchinson said: “House motions must address federal jurisdiction, they cannot clearly violate constitutional documents, they cannot concern questions that are ‘substantially the same as ones already voted on by the House of Commons in the current Parliamentary session’ and they must not concerns issues already on the Order Paper or Notice Paper as items of government business. In our estimation and according to our research, Motion M-408 clearly and easily met these requirements.”

He continued: “Committee members noted that the subject matter has already been dealt with in this session of Parliament in Motion M-312. M-312 proposed a committee to study the legal definition of ‘human being’ in Canada’s Criminal Code, an unrelated matter potentially connected to M-408 only by the consideration of human life before birth. Curiously, the same committee did not conclude Randall Garrison’s proposal to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act through private members’ Bill C-279 was non-votable when Brian Storseth already had private members’ Bill C-304 before Parliament proposing an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act. Quite simply, those two bills were on different subject matter as were the two motions cited by the committee.”

“The other objection noted was that ultrasounds are medical treatment and therefore under provincial jurisdiction,” says Hutchinson. “Non-binding motions of the House have historically covered a wide range because they are not a legislative initiative but speak to a concern of national proportion. In the past, that has included such things as a declaration to end child poverty in Canada.  Recently, private members’ Bill C-300 was passed to implement a national suicide prevention strategy, even though suicide is no longer a criminal matter under the Criminal Code; legislation to deal with a national crisis. Canada is similarly facing a nation-wide crisis with girls being aborted in hopes that a future pregnancy will result in a boy being conceived. This motion is entirely appropriate in that context.”

“This was a non-binding motion, which simply asked that the House condemn a deplorable practice – that of sex-selection abortion,” explains Sonier. “Representatives from all political parties have condemned gendercide as well as 92% of Canadians, in a recent poll. And let’s be clear – this motion could not have, in anyway, criminalized the act itself. The motion offered Parliament the opportunity to collectively condemn a deplorable practice that several Parliamentary leaders have already spoken out against.”

“If any decision warrants review in the process available within Parliamentary procedure on private members’ business, this is one such decision. Otherwise, this will be a lost opportunity to have a debate and a national discussion on a tragic practice that’s taking place in our country,” explains Hutchinson. “We hope, going forward, that we can have a democratic and respectful dialogue on this non-partisan issue. We pray for civility and we urge Parliamentarians to address critical issues of the day, such gender discrimination. It is to address issues such as these that Parliament exists.”

WeNeedaLAW director Mike Schouten was also shocked by the decision.

“Is the Prime Minister’s Office so dismissive of anything remotely connected to pre-born human rights that it will subvert democracy itself to avoid the discussion?” he asked.

He told LifeNews, “The Prime Minister has a history of being strongly opposed to Parliamentary debate regarding the status of children in the womb and the fact Motion 408 has been deemed non-votable by a four member committee with two Conservatives gives reason to believe there was influence exerted by higher powers.”

“This is clearly an attack on democracy. Motion 408 is a benign, non-binding statement already supported by 92% of Canadians. In addition, there is nothing in the criteria for determining non-votability that would indicate why the sub-committee would put forward today’s ruling,” Schouten said. “The pattern we are witnessing is similar to what we saw during the period of debate surrounding Motion 312. It was only eleven months ago Prime Minister Harper stood in the House of Commons and said it was “unfortunate” Motion 312 was deemed votable.”

Motion 312, as introduced by Member of Parliament Stephen Woodworth sought to have a Commons committee established to hear from experts on the definition of human being.

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“Essentially the ruling by this sub-committee has turned a discussion about unfair discrimination towards females into a much larger debate about democracy. The government may feel that they have effectively quashed Motion 408, but all indications are they have only set in motion a series of battles which could ultimately be settled by an appeal to the House which make a ruling by way of secret ballot,” said Schouten.

Warawa has already reacted via Twitter by saying, “Members of PMB Sub-Committee broke rules today deeming #M408 unvoteable. Were they forced and by who? An appeal process has begun.”

“This is unprecedented and to my knowledge has never happened in Canadian history,” said Schouten.

“Whatever one may think about Motion 408, it is sure to receive far more publicity as Canadians now engage on something of much greater importance – the principle of democracy itself,” concluded Schouten.