Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Harper's 'cruel absurdity' on maternal health

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on April 20, 2010.

CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters

The Harper government's refusal to include funding for abortion services in its G8 maternal health initiative attracted harsh criticism from the Quebec press last week. Le Soleil's Brigitte Breton led the charge with an editorial published Wednesday in which she accused the Conservatives of ignoring "the reality" of the "millions of women who undergo abortions in dangerous conditions" in the name of " ideology and political self-interest." Ms. Breton argued "the Conservatives don't have the right to impose their vision on the international scene," especially since they have been "strategically" maintaining an "ambiguous position on abortion" on the domestic front.

The next day, in an editorial in La Presse, Mario Roy called Mr. Harper's decision to use the G8 talks to "flaunt" his opposition to abortion "mystifying." Mr. Roy contended "there is no political or moral justification for such an attitude." He went on to argue that denying women in the developing world access to safe and legal abortions while at the same declaring women's health to be a G8 priority amounts to " a cruel absurdity."

On the same day in Le Devoir, Bernard Descôteaux called Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda's confirmation of the government's position on funding for abortion services (delivered at a G8 meeting last week in Halifax) "troubling." He had "the distinct feeling that the government is trying to hide its real intentions from the public" when it comes to its proposed maternal health initiative. Mr. Descôteaux said he wouldn't be surprised if "in a few weeks or months, Minister Oda announces the cancellation of all funding to any international organization that promotes abortion" as an option for women.

Story continues below advertisement

In a La Presse column Monday, Alain Dubuc argued the Harper government's stance on abortion funding is just another example of a "profound" shift to the right in Canadian society. "It's not just that the government is very far to the right," Mr. Dubuc wrote. "That, we already knew. What is more significant is that the support for its conservative ideas is much bigger than we could have imagined."

Mr. Dubuc observed that when Mr. Harper panders to his "Reform base," he doesn't necessarily rise or drop in opinion polls, nor do his action solicit any significant amount of "popular indignation" from citizens. He went on to argue that the "wave" of conservatism that has swept across Canada since the election of the Harper government "has been strong enough to transform the political debate" and "shift the Canadian consensus" away from a traditionally more liberal approach to abortion and other controversial issues.

Blogue of the week

In a post titled " Bilingualism at the Supreme Court for Dummies," Chantal Hébert tackles the debate over a federal private member's bill that would require any future Supreme Court justices to be fluent in both English and French. Ms. Hébert argues that, if we don't require judges to speak and understand both official languages, then the de facto language for the court will be the dominant language in Canada, in English. Ms. Hébert links to a Radio-Canada story in which former Supreme Court judge Claire L'Heureux-Dubé, declares her support of the proposed law. Ms. L'Heureux-Dubé explained that when judges are deliberating, the presence of a unilingual colleague means that all the other judges have to defend their position in that judge's language (usually English), which necessitates professional translation of written materials, which can delay rulings.

In her consideration of arguments against requiring judges to be bilingual, Ms. Hébert admits that Bora Laskin and some other highly regarded unilingual judges would have never have qualified for the job if the proposed rules had existed during their eras. But she points out that Lester Pearson and John Diefenbaker also couldn't become prime minister if they ran for office as unilingual candidates now. Ms. Hébert argues that it might be more "logical" to assume that, just like the Canadian political leaders of the future, "the next Bora Laskin will be part of the new generation of bilingual graduates."





Report an error
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.