Bits and Bites on freedom of choice

Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

In praise of Justin Trudeau and his firm pro-choice stand

By Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair
True North Perspective

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more

01 June 2014 Here we are, slowly heading for the summer of 2014 … or at least I hope we are because you really can’t tell with the constant variations in weather. But weather is what it is and it eventually settles to what it should be. I can cope with that!

What really bothers me is unresolved issues that drag on and on and never seem to get settled once and for all. Take a woman’s right to choose abortion if need be! I wrote an article in April of 2010 called “Blame it on the Easter Bunny” about that very right. At that time, Pierre Lemieux, our Conservative MP in Prescott-Russell, had asked his constituents to write to the Governor General and ask her to repeal Henry Morgentaler’s Order of Canada award. And that wasn’t all! He went around visiting the local churches on Sundays and asking parishioners to sign a petition against abortion.

Below, I will offer the article once more so you can see how little has changed since 2010.

  Image: Photo of Justin Trudeau with his family
  Justin Trudeau and family.

What sparked this renewed debate is the fact that Justin Trudeau is asking future Liberal MPs to be pro-choice. This matter definitely has to be resolved if we are to honour women’s rights to choose whether they will go ahead with a pregnancy or not. It has always troubled me that people who are the most vocal against pro-choice are individuals who have never been pregnant and have no idea what it’s like to carry a child and then become a full-time mother … for life. Yes, it can be the most wonderful experience in the right circumstances but as you will see in my 2010 article, this is not always the case.

In an interview with the Citizen, Justin Trudeau reminded us that: “The Liberal party is the party of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It defines us in the way it defines this country.” And for those who think that his father, Pierre Trudeau, would be uncomfortable with this move, I say that his father was a defender of the basic rights of people.

In the meantime, I hope that Mr. Harper and his colleagues, Mr. Lemieux included, will not need to be reminded once more that “you cannot have maternal health without reproductive health, which includes contraception, family planning and access to legal and safe abortions” as Hilary Clinton pointed out in 2010. Our government has a chance to do better this time around at the International Summit May 28 to 30.

Going forward, it’s time to finally take a stand!

Check out my 2010 article below and see for yourself.

Blame it on the Easter Bunny

Stepehn Harper makes eye-contact - sort of.
Stephen Harper makes eye-contact — sort of.

I had a sleepless night Easter Sunday. It could have been the two mugs of strong coffee this professed tea drinker had during the Easter brunch, the sinful late afternoon chocolate muffin or the chocolate bunny Logan shared with me. Or maybe it was the men’s conversations! While the women sat on the deck, helping the children count their Easter eggs after the hunt, the men were inside talking politics. When I came in for a second mug of coffee, I was told I better stay outdoors as the debate was hot. I stayed a while and had to exit promptly when my blood pressure started rising.

When I was young, I loved listening to the men folk talk world affairs. Their conversation was so much more interesting than gossip, exchange of recipes or the latest household gadgets. Most of my uncles were farm people, fiercely independent and anti-government. No one should be allowed to meddle in their affairs, they argued. I just listened and didn’t have an opinion then. But now, it’s different!

Touchy subjects? Stephen Harper and his government, has gotten my dander up on many occasions! One of those momentous times was when Pierre Lemieux, the Prescott-Russell Conservative MP asked his constituents to write to the Governor General asking for the repeal of Henry Morgentaler’s Order of Canada award. I was furious! I couldn’t shake the feeling. A friend suggested if I felt that strongly about it, I should write a letter of opinion. I did!

In an open letter to our local newspaper, I gave Pierre Lemieux the reasons why I would never cater to such a male chauvinist, hypocritical demand. Yes, abortion is a difficult choice and should not be taken lightly but when other options have failed, safe abortions should be an option for women. Henry Morgentaler risked his life to make abortions more available, safer and legal. I told Pierre Lemieux about Liz who used up her meager savings to pay for an abortion when her husband threatened to leave if she had another child. Responsibility for pregnancy has to be assumed by both men and women. It is often not the case. I mentioned the young university student who dreamed of a meaningful career only to find out she was pregnant and her boyfriend had no ambition and wasn’t going anywhere in life. And what about the lady who gave birth to 22 children?

At a recent lunch, my girlfriends talked about the many women who were sent away to have their babies in residences for unwed mothers till not so long ago (maybe 20 years). These women were treated like sinners although their only sin had been love. Even more tragic, some of these young women had been sexually abused by family members, friends of the family or trusted community leaders. Yet, the young women carried the stigma while society protected the men. Their names did not appear on the birth certificates… They could go on with their lives unblemished.

Not long after my letter was published, I read with great interest an opinion letter by Fred Cappuccino of the Lakeshore Unitarian Congregation in Pointe-Claire and of the Unitarian Fellowship of Ottawa. He went on to say he had changed his outlook and become pro-choice after attending a national assembly where the main issue was abortion. He was disturbed to see that most of the people against pro-choice were men. After hearing heart-wrenching stories from the pro-choice camp, he wept openly and realized he must vote with the women. He understood abortion is always an agonizing decision but as he said, “I don’t think any man (or group of men) – be it clergy or medical doctors or politicians – should decide for a woman what she must or must not do with her own body.”

While Mr. Lemieux was advocating against Morgentaler’s award, he was keeping silent about the bilingual debate in his constituency! Posturing was easier than jumping into an open debate.

This all surfaced again this last week as I heard that the Harper government was having difficulties accepting the fact that family planning and maternal health go hand in hand and should be included if we are to respect the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. At the G8 meeting hosted by Canada in Aylmer, Hilary Clinton had to remind our prime minister, “You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health, which includes contraception, family planning and access to legal and safe abortions.”

Is our country’s humanitarian reputation at stake here? Are we moving backwards? Is our country presenting a backward approach to women’s issues? It looks and feels that way!

When it comes to politics as well as life in general, I get very touchy about three things. Manipulation is number one. When Stephen Harper called for another election, Canadians didn’t want one and he had said himself there wouldn’t be one. But when no one was looking (we were busy watching the Olympics in China), he slammed another election on Canadians. The smear campaign against Stéphane Dion was sickening. Meanwhile, did we feel we knew Stephen Harper better? No sir!

“Secrets” is my second preoccupation. We certainly didn’t learn anything from those artificial campaign ads in which he just looked away. What was on his mind? I met him in Perth at the Garlic Festival before he became prime minister. Same thing, I was unable to make eye contact with him. Why? Who was he there for if he didn’t want to meet the average Canadian? And his cabinet ministers and aides, were they placed under a gag order? How far did we get with the Bernier-Couillard scandal, the excessive election campaign spending, party policies? Secrets are dangerous weapons! I want transparency. Is it too much to ask?

My third preoccupation is “half-truths”! Clarity, truthfulness, openness! Is it too much to ask? Ask Tiger Woods how it feels to withhold the truth? The Prime Minister has earned the title of “Waffler”! Where does he stand on the Kyoto Accord and measures to curb pollution and global warming? What about Afghanistan? When things got too embarrassing with torture cover-up allegations, Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament! Was he thinking of Canada’s future, its reputation, its economy or was he just covering his ass? He came up with a 90-minute throne speech that was deemed a rehash by people who examined it closely. What about women’s rights, the respect of bilingualism in this beautiful country of ours? Have young parents seen any progress in daycare, childcare or education since he bought their votes with a 1,200$ carrot? To the “spoiled” artists, he offered a spontaneous concert while making major cuts in the funding and a private donation to the Oscar Peterson monument. More carrots! Where was the meat?

Well, blame the Easter Bunny for this article! I needed to have my say!