Despite the festive mood of the speakers at this year’s anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill, there were rumblings of frustration from many participants who said they had expected more from Stephen Harper.
Before taking power in 2006, the Prime Minister devoted considerable energy to courting the country’s social right. But now he is making it clear he has no intention of allowing a bill to restrict abortion to be passed in the House of Commons.
And that troubles people like Noreen Kearney, who travelled five hours from Brampton, Ont., to attend the annual demonstration.
“People who call themselves Christians need to take another look at what Christianity means to them and what it means to life,” Ms. Kearney said, standing with her friends under a light drizzle and cloudy skies.
The Prime Minister calls himself a Christian, she said. “I’m not judging him because I don’t know the man. But, if you call yourself a Christian, then you should believe in life from conception.”
Ms. Kearney said she “absolutely” thought Mr. Harper would reopen the abortion issue when he took office. And she is “not a little – a lot” disappointed that a Conservative government, even in a majority situation, is unwilling to let Parliament re-examine the issue in a serious way.
Stephen Woodworth, a Tory backbencher from Kitchener, Ont., has introduced a motion asking the House of Commons to take another look at the law that declares a baby to be a human being only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal.
During the one hour that MPs have had to debate the issue, Mr. Harper dispatched Gordon O’Connor, the Government Whip, to say women’s rights would be infringed if Canada brought in any law on abortion. And Mr. Harper himself denounced the motion as “ unfortunate.”
Mr. Woodworth remains undaunted. In a news released issued Thursday, he said his motion is continuing to gain momentum. “I’ve heard from thousands of Canadians across the country via email and social media tools which indicates to me that a national conversation is due,” he said.
Some of his supporters were at the rally on the Hill.
“I think he has the right to bring this up,” said John Paul Bradford of Barrie, Ont. “Personally I think, yah, we should have this discussion.”
Mr. Bradford said he has always known that Mr. Harper is not opposed to abortion and never expected him to act on the matter. “He’s being consistent, I think,” he said. But “I suppose it would be disappointing for those who voted Conservative.”
Pamela Bower of Chatham, Ont. said Mr. Woodworth has the right to do what he is doing and “looking around today, and if you are looking at some of the blogs online and a lot of the things that I have been hearing and seeing online, you are going to be seeing the nation standing behind him, whether or not his party leader does.”
But across the road from the anti-abortion demonstration was a noisy group of people opposed to any new laws to restrict the procedure.
“I am really enraged,” Dillon Black of Ottawa said of Mr. Woodworth’s motion. “For me it’s about choice and I that think we should focus more on services to allow people to be able to make choices that will be the best for them. And I think this [motion]is just bringing us way back.”
But Ms. Black is not ready to applaud Mr. Harper. “I am really skeptical, actually,” she said. “I really question the motivation [for his actions] And who knows what’s going on behind the scenes?”