Can someone who’s personally opposed to abortion but promises not to legislate on the issue be prime minister?
If you think that’s unleashing The Handmaid’s Tale on Canada, it might surprise you to learn that’s the exact stance of the guy holding the job right now.
In 2011, after Justin Trudeau’s Catholic bona fides were questioned by then-Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro, Trudeau (at the time a Liberal MP, though not yet the party’s leader) said his Catholic faith is “an important part of who I am and the values that I try to lead with.”
The Catholic opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion is well known, though, according to Trudeau, not irreconcilable with his political positions.
According to a 2011 Canadian Press story that’s been recirculating in the last week:
“Trudeau added that neither he nor his father saw any incongruity between enshrining the rights of gays and lesbians, for example, and the tenets of Catholicism. He notes that he is personally very opposed to abortion, but still believes nobody can tell a woman what she should do with her body.”
The Catholic Church’s view is that abortion is a “grave sin” and akin to murder. I highly doubt that Trudeau adopts this outlook, given how he’s spoken about it as prime minister. Regardless, he has put on the record a personal opposition to abortion while maintaining he would never do anything about it politically.
This is identical to the position held by Andrew Scheer – a devout Catholic – and the Conservative Party of Canada. Though unlike Trudeau, Scheer has had to repeatedly answer questions about this, assuring time and time again that, despite his own beliefs, a Conservative government would not introduce any legislation on abortion or gay marriage.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped the Liberals – Ralph Goodale in particular – from sharing the video of a 2005 speech in the House of Commons in which Scheer avers procreation as being the primary function of marriage as he argues against state recognition of same-sex marriage.
Scheer, alongside most of the Conservative caucus and dozens of Liberal MPs, voted against the bill that ultimately enshrined gay marriage in federal law. Goodale had, on two prior occasions, voted the same way.
Yet in this tale of two Catholics, the media is only interested in subjecting one – the Conservative – to a social values litmus test.
Here are just a few examples from the media in recent weeks:
“His religion says abortion is homicide and a ‘grave sin.’ Can we believe Scheer when he says that, given the power to stop it, he simply won’t do so?,” former Catholic Michael Coren asks in Maclean’s.
“While everyone is entitled to their own views and beliefs, when it comes to politicians campaigning for high office, voters are entitled to know what those views are,” CBC’s Vassy Kapelos writes in summation of an article pushing the argument that Scheer needs to tell Canadians his personal views have changed on gay marriage.
“Trudeau tells Scheer it’s not enough to ‘reluctantly’ support same-sex marriage, abortion,” reads a Global headline.
I’m of the mind that Canadians get to decide for themselves what issues matter to them and what they expect of politicians. Though in this case, the media is hellbent on not only telling Canadians what issues to care about, but even what to think about those issues.
The most recent Statistics Canada data say two-thirds of Canadians identify as Christian. The vast majority of Christian denominations, not to mention most other religions, have views on abortion and gay marriage that aren’t dissimilar to the Catholic position.
I realize there are people who identify with particular religions without necessarily embracing all of their beliefs. Even so, there are millions of Canadians who have the same moral outlook that Scheer is being pilloried by the Liberals and the media for expressing 15 years ago.
The whole episode is a stark example of what happens when a minority – in this case Liberal elites and self-anointed thought leaders – decide to establish ‘correct’ positions on political issues.
It’s also a cautionary tale for Conservatives: Scheer can bend over backwards to say he won’t ban abortion, and still isn’t enough. He has to denounce his beliefs – and by extension, his faith – to assuage the critics.
Though even if he did exactly that, it’s hard to imagine the attacks would abate, as evidenced by the clear double standard in how Andrew Scheer’s personally-pro-life-but-not-politically-so position has been covered in relation to Trudeau’s.
For Trudeau, the media treats his faith as a private matter. To Scheer, it’s, pardon the pun, a cross to bear.
Photo Credit: The Interim
Andrew Lawton is a fellow at the True North Initiative and a Loonie Politics columnist.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.