Highs and Lows of the 41st Canadian Parliament
On June 18th, the House of Commons adjourned, setting the stage for an election campaign that will end the 41st session of Parliament. This is an appropriate time to look back on the past four years and see what was accomplished, especially through the lens of ARPA Canada and the issues that we focus on.
Pre-born Human Rights:
When the Conservatives were handed a majority in the last federal election, many Christians hoped that pre-born human rights would finally be addressed. These hopes were in vain. Although some courageous MPs stood up for the pre-born, the leadership of all the political parties in the House of Commons did their utmost to suppress these efforts.
Motion 312, championed by MP Stephen Woodworth, was the first motion that held promise. It asked that “a special committee of the House of Commons be appointed and directed to review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth.” Local ARPA chapters hosted presentations by Mr. Woodworth on this motion and many ARPA supporters encouraged MPs to support it. But with the party leaders all vocally opposed, the motion died in the House by a vote of 203 to 91. Yet Motion 312 reignited a discussion that was quiet for too long. Momentum for addressing this injustice was building.
MP Mark Warawa’s Motion 408 addressed the injustice of gendercide. Also known as sex-selective abortion, this practice is the targeted abortion of pre-born children based on their gender. Global statistics show that in the past 30 years approximately 200,000,000 more girls have been aborted than boys. Motion 408 simply called for the condemnation of this practice in Canada. When pressed by the media, all the parties had unilaterally condemned sex-selective abortions, so ARPA Canada was hopeful Mr. Warawa’s motion would receive full support in the House of Commons. Once again, the leadership of the political parties joined forces to stop the motion from proceeding. This time, a special committee met behind closed doors and deemed it “non-votable”, preventing it from coming to a vote in the House of Commons. This usurping of Parliamentary authority resulted in a firestorm of criticism, generating hundreds of media articles. It also led to calls for democratic reforms – some of which bore significant fruit (see below). Although Motion 408 died, this may be the first time where Canadians, including the mainstream media, vocally challenged the political parties for their refusal to address the issue. It was clear that Parliament failed Canadians. The momentum to advance pre-born human rights kicked into high gear.
MP Niki Ashton’s Motion 510 was an attempt to recognize “a woman’s right to choose abortion [as] a fundamental question of equality and human rights, both in Canada and around the world”. It also called for government funding for abortions internationally as part of health care aid. Motion 510 was a direct challenge to the cause of the pre-born worldwide. The twisting of the term ‘human rights’ to only focus on the rights of the woman to have her child killed, and not on the rights of that child to live, love, and learn was perplexing. To also spread these humanistic and hedonistic worldviews around the world through neo-colonial imposition under the auspices of ‘neutral’ healthcare was additionally alarming. When ARPA Canada heard about this motion, our pro-life campaign WeNeedaLAW.ca immediately released a press statement before many on Parliament Hill had even heard about the motion. We also encouraged supporters to contact their MPs about this issue, with much success. In response to the pressure, and the fear from her own party that they were encouraging the re-opening of the abortion debate, Ms. Ashton withdrew her motion. The momentum from M-312 and M-408 was having an impact.
Palliative Care and Assisted Suicide:
NDP Member of Parliament Charlie Angus introduced Motion 456 to establish a palliative and end-of-life care strategy that:
(a) takes into account the geographic, regional, and cultural diversity of urban and rural Canada as well as Canada’s First Nation, Inuit and Métis people;
(b) respects the cultural, spiritual and familial needs of all Canadians; and
(c) has the goal of
(i) ensuring all Canadians have access to high quality home-based and hospice palliative end-of-life care,
(ii) providing more support for caregivers,
(iii) improving the quality and consistency of home and hospice palliative end-of-life care in Canada,
(iv) encouraging Canadians to discuss and plan for end-of-life care.
ARPA Canada happily supported this motion. At first there was talk within the Conservative ranks that the motion would be opposed. Thankfully, we were able to leverage some connections there and the motion passed nearly unanimously. Palliative Care is a specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, physical stress, and mental stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis. The goal of such therapy is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Modern healthcare aims primarily to resolve the patient’s physical health problems, and not to deal with the mental, spiritual, and emotional problems that are associated with serious illness. Palliative care fills that gap.
On February 06, 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down provisions in the Criminal Code dealing with aiding suicide. They gave Parliament a one-year deadline to come up with a new law. ARPA Canada has been involved in preliminary consultations regarding possible Government legislation on this issue. However no bill has yet been introduced, which means that the new government after the election will have to act very quickly. Having to leave this decision to the new government (when we have no idea who will hold that position) was disappointing. It is also disappointing to see all of the political parties do their best to stay away from the issue so that it doesn’t become an election issue. Peter Mackay, the Justice Minister, has indicated that the Government will ask for an extension after the election. But it is up to the Supreme Court to make that decision, and up to the next government to make that request. We look forward to seeing more action on this over the summer including participation in broad stakeholder consultations.
Prostitution & Human Trafficking
There were many positive steps in opposing sex-slavery and prostitution in the 41st Parliament. MP Joy Smith put forward Bill C-310 amending the Criminal Code to criminalize the trafficking of persons internationally by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. This bill received support from members of all the major parties and was passed into law.
On December 20, 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down three prostitution-related provisions in the Criminal Code as unconstitutional. It was left to Parliament to enact new legislation to resolve this. The Government introduced Bill C-36 in response, which ARPA Canada hailed as one of the best pieces of legislation from this Government. C-36 aimed to “criminalize those who fuel and perpetuate the demand for prostitution by purchasing sexual services, and to protect those who sell their own sexual services, vulnerable persons, and Canadian communities from the harms associate with prostitution.” This two-pronged approach reduces demand for sexual services, and also protects those who sell such services from exploitation. This bill became law, in part due to a concerted effort by ARPA Canada’s supporters. For more, see our website article, “Bill C-36 passes 3rd Reading in the Senate.”
Bill C-279 was a private member’s bill from NDP MP Randall Garrison to “provide explicit federal human rights protection on the grounds of gender identity and gender expression, and the availability of greater moral and penal sanction for crimes committed against an individual because of the individuals’ gender identity or gender expression.” This bill ended up not making it past a number of Senate amendments, thanks to the courageous efforts of Senators who saw the harm this legislation will bring. One of ARPA Canada’s articles pointed out that, “this legislation ‘will entrench in Canadian law the notion that sex and/or gender are basically social constructs, products of a series of human choices, based not in the natural order but in more or less arbitrary acts of interpretation.’” Though this bill was defeated, we have no doubt it will reappear. Similar changes have been passed, sometimes with almost no notice, in Ontario and Alberta. Read more on our website, “Stop Bill C-279 before it becomes Law.”
Human Rights Commissions
Bill C-304 repealed the infamous section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. C-304 was introduced by MP Brian Storseth and passed into law in 2012. Section 13 made it an offence to communicate “any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt…” While hate speech remains illegal under the Criminal Code, Bill C-304 removed the authority of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to investigate and prosecute it. ARPA Canada readers have seen many references to Section 13 over the years; it and its provincial equivalents have been responsible for silencing Christians who say or write things that are deemed to be offensive. Christians should be the first to oppose hatred but when the Canadian Human Rights Commission defines hate, Christians are often targeted because the Gospel is offensive to the natural man. Read more on this Bill on our website, “A good Reason to Rejoice this Canada Day: Bill C-304 Passes!”
At the beginning of February 2015, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the establishment of a Canadian Office of Religious Freedom, appointing as our first Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Dr. Andrew Bennett. The Office is both humanitarian and political and the appointment of an ambassador took nearly two years to finalize. ARPA Canada participated in the initial consultations by providing a short statement on what the office should look like. There is a great need for religious freedom around the globe, especially for Christians, but also for all other faith groups. Canada has a moral duty to loudly object to such persecution. You can read more here.
On its last day of sitting before the summer recess, the Senate passed bill C-377. This bill will require unions to submit high-value financial transactions and the names of high salary earners to Revenue Canada, which will then be made public. The intention is to increase transparency with regards to unions, which are given special status in law but are often criticized for misuse of funds and not providing value service for the amount of money they collect from union-members. There is some concern this bill will be challenged in court in the future, but ARPA Canada is confident it will improve the democratic process surrounding the powerful unions.
On June 30, 2015 Bill C-290, still tied up in committee, died in the Senate. C-290 is the sports-betting bill, which had passed from the House of Commons into the Senate without a standing vote or any study. This Bill sought to legalize single-sport betting in Canada. For many reasons, including the inefficient use of government funds for revenue generation, the social ills betting causes (including 200 suicides a year!), and the undermining of the integrity of sport, ARPA brought a call to action to its supporters to stop this bill. Outrage from concerned Canadians played a part in the stagnation of the bill in the Senate, and we are thankful it never was passed. You can read more on our call for action here.
Income splitting was a part of a series of family tax credits Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in the fall of 2014, including a boost to the Universal Child Care Benefit. Canada has a progressive income tax system. As one’s income increases, they move up the ladder to a higher tax bracket, allowing the government to take a larger percentage of their income. This current system is biased against single-income families and biased towards dual-income families. For example, a family in which one spouse works and brings home $70,000, and the other spouse stays home to care for the family, that family will pay almost $1,700 more than a family in which both spouses work and bring in $35,000 each. In both cases, the total family income is the same, yet one family pays significantly more in federal taxes yearly. The purpose of income splitting is to be able to evenly divide family income between the two spouses in order to be taxed at a lower overall tax rate. ARPA Canada has been pushing for a change like this for a long time, and is encouraged to see this measure finally being implemented to help out average Canadian families. You can read more on our website, “Income Splitting – A Good Idea for Families.”
MP Michael Chong’s Bill C-586, called the Reform Act, was recently passed in the Senate, just days after the House of Commons rose for the summer. The Reform Act proposed three main reforms: Removing the statutory party leader control over local party, strengthening caucus as decision-making body, and reinforcing the accountability of party leaders to their caucuses. As Mr. Chong writes on his website, “The proposals in the Reform Act reinforce the principle of responsible government. It makes the executive more accountable to the legislature and ensures that party leaders maintain the confidence of their caucuses.” There were some concerns that, due to a few proposed amendments, this bill would end up dying in the Senate before the election. Thankfully it did pass, and will hopefully result in future Parliaments where MPs can act according to their convictions rather than the dictates of the party leadership. As Chong states on his website, “Studies have found that many Canadians are disengaged because they feel that politicians work for someone else, and are therefore indifferent to their views…The Reform Act help[s] to re-engage citizens by introducing bottom-up reforms.”
Overall, we praise God for the positive outcomes from this 41st Parliament. Whether you know it or not, many of you had a hand in seeing good legislation introduced or passed. Though there were some significant disappointments, we must continue to pray for God’s guidance and blessing for ARPA Canada and its staff, and for our leaders as we await the fall election and the 42nd Parliament of Canada. For additional information, review our ‘Report Card: Assessing Canada’s Conservative Government.‘