On the feature today, a look back at ARPA’s accomplishments in 2016, and a look ahead to 2017. Click here to read the transcript of the interview.
In the news:
MP Arnold Viersen’s Motion 47 passes in Parliament Click here to read the great news!
Another Conservative leadership candidate weighs in on life issues. Click here for a sneak peek at Mr. Lemieux’s interview.
And an expansion of euthanasia in Alberta. Click here for the perspective of one of the intervenors in the Carter case.
The House of Commons has unanimously voted to support Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen’s “Motion 47.” That’s the motion which directs the Parliamentary Health Committee “to examine the public health effects of the ease of access and viewing of online violent and degrading sexually explicit material on children, women and men.”
The motion had all-party support in the House when it came up for a vote earlier this month.
Viersen says it really was a team effort to get the issue to that stage. He says a lot of people “laid the groundwork for this”, including former Liberal MP Joy Smith and others. He says there was a “network across the country who sent in piles and piles of letters” to pressure MPs on the issue.
The motion says the study has to be done by next summer, which isn’t really a lot of time when you consider how the Parliamentary calendar works, but Viersen says he’ll do his best to make sure the study is thorough. “The next thing will be to put forward witnesses to the Committee…making sure that I can get the witnesses lined up to be in town on the right days; basically being the caretaker to keep pushing this issue forward.”
Viersen says it’s not clear what the Health Committee will recommend, but he’s hoping there will be a move towards, among other things, online age verification for so-called adult websites.
Another candidate for the federal Conservative Party leadership has weighed in on the abortion issue. Former Ontario MP Pierre Lemieux posted a YouTube video online earlier this month, promising to bring forward the issue of sex-selective abortion if he wins the Party leadership. In an exclusive interview with Lighthouse News, Lemieux says this issue goes to one of the central points of his leadership campaign. “Here in Canada, we have a strong and healthy democracy, and within that democracy, Canadians should be able to… debate within Parliament any subject that is of importance to them.” He says he finds is “very inappropriate” that politicians will say “this debate is closed, that debate is over, this debate will not be re-opened.”
Lemieux also says that unlike some of his leadership rivals, he would be prepared to have a government he led actually put forward legislation on the broader abortion issue. “The government could initiate that. That’s what I’m proposing here; initiating a discussion based on input from Canadians on life issues, which would include sex-selective abortions, but it could include other things as well.”
We’ll have a full-length feature interview with Mr. Lemieux on the January 10th edition of Lighthouse News.
Alberta is expanding access to medical assistance in dying. The provincial cabinet has passed an Order-in-Council to authorize about 450 nurse practitioners across the Province – rather than just doctors – to provide so-called “medical assistance in dying.” Lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos was one of the intervenors in the original Carter case which led to the liberalization of euthanasia laws and he says this definitely broadens the scope of the discussion. “It’s certainly (no longer) limited to physicians the way that the Supreme Court had intended it to be (in Carter)”, he says. However, Polizogopoulos says, Alberta isn’t really unique in this area, because the federal legislation did include a provision for nurse practitioners as well.
He says this further complicates the debate over conscience rights for healthcare professionals. “Obviously the more vulnerable people are physicians – family physicians, palliative care physicians – so that’s where most of the focus has been. But certainly if you’re a nurse practitioner in a small isolated area and you’re the only person in town who has the ability to provide this ‘service’, if you have a moral objection to it you might be in a very tough spot.”
The feature this week is a year-end interview with three senior ARPA staff members: Executive Director Mark Penninga, We Need a Law Director Mike Schouten, and Grassroots Manager Colin Postma.
LN: Let’s start with you, Mark. Just give us some of the highlights of 2016 for ARPA as an organization. You know, we had some new hires, there were various initiatives, I read the fundraising mail-out that went out a little while ago and it talks about the fact that our budget is over a million dollars now. I mean, this is an organization that is growing…
MP: It’s been a really big year. A few weeks ago, I met with the Board of Directors. We looked back on this year, and we also asked some hard questions. Did we persevere in the face of the challenges we saw? Did we advance pro-active policies? So instead of just being reactive, were we on the offense? Did we mobilize the grassroots? That’s supposed to be our first mission. Was our witness faithful? It’s not good enough to just be there; was our witness actually advancing something that God wanted us to advance? Were we good stewards of what we were given? As you said, we were given a lot. Did we make good use of that?
And I’d say that, by God’s grace, the answer to all of these questions was a convincing “yes”. By God’s grace, we were able to stand up to the challenge. I think especially of the euthanasia issue. Even though the other side was relentless in trying to cross that line, we were able to give a principled witness right to the very end, and even see some stemming of the tide. We were able to advance pro-active policy with things like Motion 47. We saw that recently pass unanimously in the House of Commons. On the Trinity Western front, on Bill C-225, on C-277, these are all fronts where we were able to advance something rather than just react.
And by God’s grace we were also able to see growth in our team. We started (the) Boots on the Ground initiative, where we have about 10 key people on the ground in various parts of Canada. That started this year, and it’s taken off well. We’ve added Harry Moes as our Educational Consultant, John Sikkema as our second lawyer – our legal counsel – and then Hannah Sikkema as our Office Manager in Ottawa. So we have so much reason for thanksgiving (when we) see how God has expanded this team.
LN: Mike, Cassie and Molly’s law took up a lot of time and energy this year and ultimately it did not pass in Parliament. I guess that was one of the main focuses for We Need a Law this year. Your thoughts on that, and maybe take a look ahead at 2017.
MS: Sure. Yeah, as I look back to the beginning of 2016, it’s quite interesting that Cassie and Molly’s law was not even on our radar. It was obviously – a pre-born victims of crime law – was a law that we had advocated for for a couple of years already. But to see a law introduced by a courageous MP, Cathay Wagantall, was indeed a blessing, not only to our organization but I think to the entire country. And even though it did not pass on its first vote in Parliament, there was an incredible amount of positives that came from it. I think by the end of the debate on Cassie and Molly’s law, that that term – “Cassie and Molly’s Law” – was a household name amongst not just Christians or pro-lifers, but Canadians from coast to coast. So I think that, while it didn’t pass, there were many positives that we can build from. And that’s what we’re looking to do going into 2017.
We have several speaking tours planned. One of them is in conjunction with the court case that we have in Ontario to strike down the censorship laws there that prohibit abortion statistics from becoming public. But there’s other ways in which we hope to build off of Cassie and Molly’s law. And that is by working with Canadians to grow an acceptance of an international standards abortion law. We really believe that the time is now, when we need to confront the issue of abortion head on and maybe take a break from playing around on the edges with things like sex-selective abortion and pre-born victims of crime and just actually take the issue head on. To make it very difficult for Members of Parliament and Canadians who would call themselves pro-choice – to make it very difficult for them to just dismiss this as “you know, we can’t entertain this because it might re-open the abortion debate.”
LN: Colin, on the grassroots side, we had the Booties for Babies campaign this year. That certainly had a lot more engagement than we expected. Did it have an impact? And I guess from a grassroots engagement perspective, how do we top this for 2017?
CP: Yeah, the Booties campaign did go extremely well. I mean, in terms of grassroots activism this year, the grassroots have been very involved. The baby booties campaign started as an idea about a year ago, where we were just trying to come up with a new program – especially in comparison with the flag display and the success that that had. So we had the grassroots knit these baby booties with the idea that they would eventually be sent to Members of Parliament and to Senators. And the response from that was overwhelming, like it was 7 times as much as we had originally challenged people to produce. So I think we had over 7-thousand baby booties.
And I’m excited to see what will happen moving forward as well. I mean, so many of the other campaigns you could touch on from this past year. Mark’s already mentioned a couple of them, like euthanasia; hundreds of EasyMail letters that were sent out. Phone calls to Members of Parliament through the various campaigns. Molly Matters. Motion 47. You know, hundreds of signatures on petitions that were put together in the last couple of months as well.
Even talking about just local activity on the ground, too, is really exciting. That’s one of the neat things about my job is I’m able to be in contact with people on the ground on a regular basis to hear some of the neat ideas that they’re doing in their communities that are making a difference. You know, whether it’s local dinners, or speeches, or whether they’re screening some of the newer documentaries like the “Hush” documentary or “Over 18”.
LN: Mark, back to you. Looking ahead to 2017. What do we see on the horizon in terms of issues and initiatives? I mean, Mike already talked about the fact that the We Need a Law side is going to get a little more focused on the central issue rather than some of the peripheral bills. What about ARPA in general?
MP: There’s some things that we can see already now because we’re working on them, or we can anticipate them. So in the courts, we know that Trinity Western is being appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. So that’s a big one on our horizon. And then we also can see some concerns and anxiety coming out of the provinces; especially in Alberta, for example, with the education system in Alberta. There’s a possibility of legal action being initiated there. And then euthanasia. It’s not done. In fact, Dying with Dignity – and the forces that are trying to promote as expansive a euthanasia regime as possible – they’re hard at work. And that’s something that we’re seeing both in the courts and in Parliament. There’s going to be some big challenges. The spanking law has re-emerged again in the Senate and this is something we know also has the support of our Prime Minister; an effort to criminalize parents who use physical discipline. That’s probably going to be a big issue. And then we’ve got gender identity – Bill C-16. We’ve got C-277, the Palliative Care bill.
One exciting initiative that we haven’t talked about yet – but it’s a bit of a change for us – that is that usually, this would be the year that we don’t have a God and Government conference because we’ve done that every second year. But this year, for the first time, we’re going to do a God and Government youth edition. So this is where we’re going to invite young people – from grades 11 and 12 from across Canada – to apply. If their application is successful, they’ll be one of about 24 students to join us in Ottawa and take part in something very similar to what we do in the alternate years with adults. That would involve training – equipping – but then also actually sitting down with our lawmakers, bringing a Biblical perspective directly to them this year.
LN: We’re running out of time here, but I’m just going to throw this open. Just general discussion about ARPA’s impact in terms of maintaining the momentum. There’s two federal parties that have leadership contests coming up in 2017. I know ARPA is non-partisan, but is there any inclination that we might want to get involved there somehow to sort of promote the discussion? And just generally, what else might we want to look ahead to for 2017?
MS: As far as the leadership campaigns, I think that we would take the opportunity as they arise if leadership contestants are speaking about either the 10 issues that ARPA deals with or the topic of pre-born human rights, then we would certainly want to make our supporters aware of that and give them an opportunity to get involved should they be inclined towards that.
Further though, to kind of setting the stage for 2017, I think it’s going to be important that as ARPA Canada we start to work with our supporters not just to develop an advocacy organization that advocates against things, but an advocacy organization that proposes concrete solutions. Recently I was reading a book by John Stonestreet – some of our listeners might have heard of him – and he wrote a book called “Restoring All Things.” And in it, he quotes Dwight Moody, a 19th century preacher, who says “the best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or spend time denouncing it, but to simply lay a straight stick alongside it.” And I think here of someone like Brad Wall, who continually is criticizing the Carbon Tax, but at the same time is proposing a carbon capture technology.
So we have to take that approach. That we’re not just criticizing some of the public policy that’s being put forward by a Liberal government or by secular humanists, but we need to lay that straight stick alongside it. And that’s the truth as it is applied to the issues that we’re heavily involved in.