Free Speech in Canada?

What mistake did these students make? They forgot to identify themselves as bombastic foreign Members of Parliament whom have provided material support to Hamas. Silly students… freedom of speech on the campus of a school at which you attend and live? Preposterous!

Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn, Human Rights Commissions, the public works protection act, pro-life voices shut down on campus…

Is it time we had a serious review of how flexible our rights to speech and assembly have become in this country?

Ignatieff out of step with the UN on abortion

So there I was watching the National on CBC. It’s been quite a few days of discussion, at least in Conservative circles, about the partisan affiliation (or appearance of as much) of pollster Frank Graves and his call for the Liberal mainstream to take up war against the Conservative horde. I hadn’t seen the National in a few weeks so I thought I’d give it a fair viewing.

Cue the top story of the day according to the CBC: abortion!

What we learned from the top story? That Canada’s long standing position on abortion faces “reversal” with CIDA minister Bev Oda’s pronunciation on the topic today. Canada will not help fund third world abortions as part of an initiative of maternal health.

But is it a reversal? There is actually no legislation from Parliament on the issue. There is no law restricting it, no law promoting it. Canada’s position if it can be stated, is that there’s NO position.

Yet, we learn that Canada’s non-position is about to be reversed. No, not that it’s taking a firm position on its domestic policy with respect to abortion, but that Canada will continue to not fund third world abortions. This is a reversal according to The National. Nevermind that Canada’s non-position domestically is not even a fair lens through which to view our international status quo position, it’s a “reversal”.

If from that you’ve sorted it all out, perhaps you’re on the right side of Frank Graves’ culture war. But me? I’m sitting on the sideline scratching my head.

Let’s add some more confusion. The Liberals and media frame the Conservative position as “out of step” with that of the UK and the US. Let’s set aside that when the US didn’t fund third world abortions it was called the “Bush” position rather than the “US” position. But hey why not check the United Nations position on abortion:

From the United Nations Population Fund, paragraph 8.25 states:

“In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning. All Governments and relevant intergovernmental and non governmental organizations are urged to strengthen their commitment to women’s health, to deal with the health impact of unsafe abortion as a major public health concern and to reduce the recourse to abortion through expanded and improved family planning services. Prevention of unwanted pregnancies must always be given the highest priority and all attempts should be made to eliminate the need for abortion. Women who have unwanted pregnancies should have ready access to reliable information and compassionate counselling. Any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process. In circumstances in which abortion is not against the law, such abortion should be safe. In all cases women should have access to quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion. Post abortion counselling, education and family planning services should be offered promptly which will also help to avoid repeat abortions.”

and just to drive the point home:

Does the UN provide funding for abortion?

No. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the main United Nations body involved in population issues, does not support or promote abortion in any country, nor does it provide assistance for abortion services or abortion-related equipment and supplies. It strictly abides by the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, which states that “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning”. UNFPA works to prevent abortion through family planning, and helps countries to provide services for women suffering from the complications of unsafe abortions. The Fund helps developing countries to establish national reproductive health programmes and reduce maternal illness and death, as well as in family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention. UNFPA also helps countries compile reliable demographic data and carry out censuses. As the largest international source of population assistance, UNFPA is funded entirely by voluntary contributions.

So, where’s the headline? Harper doesn’t change status quo but “reverses” an undefined policy that is by not only undefined but by the definition of “undefined”, irreversible?

Or is the headline “Ignatieff out of step with the UN on abortion”?

Consider this: Perhaps the real story is that Mr. Ignatieff — having defined himself as “Mr. Internationalism” and a leader who would “regain Canada’s place in the world” — now is out of step with the very embodiment of internationalism that all DFAITers pine after.

But perhaps this internationalist position isn’t as fashionable to Mr. Ignatieff is it? If it were, we think he’d be all over it like soy milk on Kasha.

Now, that I’m done watching the National, I better turn the channel. The Hour is on and its George on George. Strombo woopin up the audience for his next guest, George Galloway.

The culture war is underway.

Jack Layton’s awkward dance on abortion

At the moment, I’m watching MPs vote on motions before the House of Commons. A controversial vote on a Liberal motion on “Maternal and Child Heath” was just narrowly defeated, thanks in large part to a hold-out of Liberal MPs standing against Michael Ignatieff.

Most will remember that earlier this year, Michael Ignatieff got himself into some hot water by challenging Prime Minister Harper on the delivery of health and support for women and children in the third world. The Liberal leader decided to add the divisive issue of abortion into the mix and suffered the headline from The Catholic Register: “Ignatieff urges abortion for world’s poor”.

Before the vote, the NDP put out a press release concerning the wavering Liberal position on “maternal health” criticizing the Liberals and their leader for replacing demands to include abortion services in aid with a demand for “contraception”.

Today the Liberal Party will propose a motion asking that the government “include the full range of family planning” in its maternal and child health initiative to be unveiled in June at the G8 summit in Toronto.

At first glance, the motion is in keeping with what Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff pledged last month:

that aid for abortions abroad is crucial if Prime Minister Harper is serious about making maternal health a “top priority” for Canada.

“We don’t want to have women dying because of botched procedures. We don’t want to have women dying in misery. We’ve had a pro-choice consensus in this area for a couple of generations and we want to hold it.” – Michael Ignatieff, Toronto Star, Feb 2 2010.

But the devil is always in the details. A closer read of the motion shows that in the intervening weeks the Ignatieff Liberals have backpeddled from their earlier position, making specific reference only to “contraception” but not abortion.

If Layton is so sensitive about a simple motion before the House, he must have hit the wall when it came to not only the biggest domestic piece of American legislation since the new deal, but also the biggest horse-trading session as well.

Among concessions suffered by the Obama administration in jamming the Frankenstein piece of legislation through Congress was one final sell-out of the progressive/liberal plank of the Liberal wing of the Democratic base.

Late on Sunday, Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak wressled one final concession from Obama securing an executive order from the President banning federal funding for abortion in turn securing passage of the bill. But while we’re on the topic of federal funding for abortion, let’s check to see Layton’s reaction in the House yesterday to the passing of abortion-free Obamacare:

Mr. Speaker, 44 years after medicare was implemented in Canada, we extend our congratulations to President Obama for bringing comprehensive health care reform to the people of the United States. Now, of course, the Americans will be looking to Canada for the next steps.

One wonders if Tommy Douglas envisioned a system where “big insurance” would be guaranteed profits and profits collected by the IRS, no less. Federal funding of abortions for none, tiny hope and change stickers for everyone!

The devil is in the details, Jack.

What the Conservatives might say about Ignatieff and abortion

The Prime Minister at the World Economic Forum last week announced an initiative to put the health of mothers and children on the agenda at the G8 conference this summer.

Instead of cheering or at least giving an approving nod to a laudable policy topic, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff decided to make a rare pronouncement on policy. This time it was about abortion of all things.

Abortion has been a topic that is scantly discussed and rarely debated, if at all, within the realm of public policy in the last couple of decades. How it has come up now, represents an objectionable political goal for Michael Ignatieff. The Liberal leader is looking for a wedge.

To respond to politics, the Conservatives should consider responding politically. In this case, to neutralize the issue. Many Canadians feel strongly about the topic, but nothing but failure (for both sides) can come from playing politics with the issue.

Here’s what the Conservatives might say about Michael Ignatieff’s flirtation with abortion policy,

“Mr. Ignatieff doesn’t seem to realize that in the past 34 years, we Canadians closed the divisive debate on abortion in this country. This topic has split families and the debate has caused heartache for countless Canadians. We are saddened by Mr. Ignatieff’s attempt to reopen the topic for discussion and to callously use the philosophical debate over life and the exercise of reproductive rights as a political football to be tossed about carelessly.

Mr. Ignatieff we’ve moved past this. We will not allow you to bring the American-style politics of abortion to this country as a wedge issue to divide Canadians.

Canadians that we’re consulting these days are concerned about jobs and the economic recovery. While Mr. Ignatieff wants to hold university style seminar discussions about abortion, we’re focused on phase II of our Economic Action Plan.”

It should also be noted that the only leadership of any party to try and reopen the debate on abortion in recent memory has been that of the Liberal Party, mostly as a wedge issue to imply that the Conservatives have a hidden agenda on social issues. If merely revisiting the Canadian abortion debate is a slippery slope for pro-choice activists, why applaud Liberals when they keep bringing it up and condemn Conservatives for their non-agitation on the issue?

In reality, this move by Ignatieff reflects desperation. The abortion maneuver by Liberals is always done when the Liberals have nothing left to talk about. In this case, the Conservatives should deprive Ignatieff of oxygen on the issue and ignore it completely for the cheap attempt that it is.

Obama, Harper and Ignatieff

Extraordinary Rendition:
The extrajudicial transfer of terror suspects from one state to another, usually to states with lower standards on human rights in their treatment of prisoners.

Barack Obama on extraordinary rendition:

“Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.” — LA Times

Michael Ignatieff on extraordinary rendition:

Arar is a case of rendition: the Torture Convention –Canada is a signator — forbids the rendition of anyone to confinement in a country where there is a reasonable chance that the person will be tortured. Arar claims he was tortured in Syria. But that’s not the only violation: the Americans can turn back a Canadian citizen to Canada, but surely have no right to deport him to a third country.

Stephen Harper on extraordinary rendition:

What I would like to see is obviously the United States government come clean with its version of events [Arar rendition], to acknowledge … the deficiencies and inappropriate conduct that occurred in this case, particularly vis-a-vis its relationship with the Canadian government [Canada wants to hear that] these kinds of incidents will not be repeated in the future.”

Same-sex marriage:
Stephen Harper on same-sex marriage:

“I have no difficulty with the recognition of civil unions for non-traditional relationships but I believe in law we should protect the traditional definition of marriage.” — Stephen Harper interviewed by the CBC

“We made a promise to have a free vote on this issue, we kept that promise, and obviously the vote was decisive and obviously we’ll accept the democratic result of the people’s representatives … I don’t see reopening this question in the future.” — Stephen Harper after MPs reject to re-open same-sex marriage debate

Michael Ignatieff on same-sex marriage:

For Liberals gay marriage is an equality issue. The [Liberal] government’s position gets the balance right. We will not compel religious communities to perform ceremonies that go against their beliefs, but we will not deny marriage rights to Canadians on grounds of sexual orientation.

Barack Obama on same-sex marriage:

“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. For me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union. God’s in the mix. … I am not somebody that promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions.

Enhanced interrogation:
Michael Ignatieff on enhanced interrogation:

“As Posner and others have tartly pointed outif torture and coercion are both as useless as critics pretend, why are they used so much? While some abuse and outright torture can be attributed to individual sadism, poor supervision and so on, it must be the case that other acts of torture occur because interrogators believe, in good faith, that torture is the only way to extract information in a timely fashion. It must also be the case that if experienced interrogators come to this conclusion, they do so on the basis of experience. The argument that torture and coercion do not work is contradicted by the dire frequency with which both practices occur. I submit that we would not be “waterboarding” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — immersing him in water until he experiences the torment of nearly drowning — if our intelligence operatives did not believe it was necessary to crack open the al Qaeda network that he commanded. . Indeed, Mark Bowden points to a Time report in March 2003 that Sheikh Mohammed had “given US interrogators the names and descriptions of about a dozen key al Qaeda operatives believed to be plotting terrorist attacks.” We must at least entertain the possibility that the operatives working on Sheikh Mohammed in our name are engaging not in gratuitous sadism but in the genuine belief that this form of torture—and it does qualify as such—makes all the difference.”

The Globe and Mail infers Stephen Harper’s government’s stance on enhanced interrogation by other governments aided by Canada:

“The Harper government knew prison conditions were appalling long before The Globe and Mail published a series of stories last April detailing the abuse and torture of prisoners turned over by Canadian soldiers to Afghanistan’s notorious secret police, documents released this week show.” — The Globe and Mail

Israel:
Michael Ignatieff on Israel:

“I was a professor of human rights, and I am also a professor of the laws of war, and what happened in Qana was a war crime, and I should have said that.” — Michael Ignatieff on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict

“Canada has to support the right of a democratic country to defend itself … Hamas is to blame for organizing and instigating these rocket attacks and then for sheltering among civilian populations.” — Michael Ignatieff on the Israel-Hamas conflict

Barack Obama on Israel:

“My view is that the United States’ special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction”

Stephen Harper on Israel:
[The] source of Israel’s strength and success, in my view, is its commitment to the universal values of all civilized peoples: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. …

… Our government believes that those who threaten Israel also threaten Canada, because, as the last world war showed, hate-fuelled bigotry against some is ultimately a threat to us all, and must be resisted wherever it may lurk.

In this ongoing battle, Canada stands side-by-side with the State of Israel, our friend and ally in the democratic family of nations. We have stood with Israel even when it has not been popular to do so, and we will continue to stand with Israel, just as I have always said we would.

I know that we all hope and pray that someday freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law will be a reality for all the peoples of the Middle East.

Abortion:
Stephen Harper on abortion:

“I will tell you that, as prime minister, I will not bring forth legislation on the issue of abortion” — Speech at 2005 CPC Policy Convention

Michael Ignatieff on abortion:

Strong majorities of Canadians believe that while abortion should be rare, it should be a protected right for all women. … I am in politics to defend and develop this progressive achievement.”

Barack Obama on abortion:

“I trust women to make these decisions in conjunction with their doctors, and their families and their clergy… When you describe a specific procedure [partial-birth abortion] that accounts for less than one percent of abortions that take place then naturally people get concerned, and I think legitimately so.” — Barack Obama

Iraq:
Stephen Harper on Iraq:

On Iraq, while I support the removal of Saddam Hussein and applaud the efforts to establish democracy and freedom in Iraq, I would not commit Canadian troops to that country. I must admit great disappointment at the failure to substantiate pre-war intelligence information regarding Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Michael Ignatieff on Iraq:

The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president … But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion.

Barack Obama on Iraq:

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear — I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars. — Barack Obama, October 2nd, 2002

On capital punishment:
Stephen Harper’s government on capital punishment:

Citing the “wrong signal” it would send to Canadians to plead for mercy for convicted killers, the Conservatives said they would no longer attempt to convince the United States or other democratic countries to commute death sentences meted out to Canadians.

The government later said it would review such situations on a “case-by-case basis.” — Montreal Gazette

Michael Ignatieff on capital punishment:

Canadians do not support capital punishment… I am in politics to defend and develop this progressive achievement.

Barack Obama on capital punishment:

“While the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime, I believe there are some crimes — mass murder, the rape and murder of a child — so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment” — Barack Obama from The Audacity of Hope

What of the Liberals and abortion?

From the National Post:

OAKVILLE – Stephane Dion has challenged the Prime Minister to clarify his view on abortion, threatening to reignite the debate as Canada careens toward a fall election.
The Liberal leader issued his challenge to Stephen Harper while answering a question at a town hall meeting on Wednesday night in Oakville.

The event was billed as a discussion of Mr. Dion’s carbon tax plan, but a member of the audience instead asked his views on the Unborn Victims of Crime Act. The private member’s bill would make it a criminal offence to harm an unborn child during an attack on its mother.

Mr. Dion said he opposed the proposed legislation because it might infringe on women’s access to abortion.

“We need to protect everyone against crime, but, at the same time, it happens that I believe in the rights of women to choose and I have a lot of respect for the people who have a different view,” he told the crowd.
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Mr. Dion then called upon Mr. Harper to state his own position on abortion.

And the latest in the Parliament Hill window series from Liberal MP Tom Wappel:

Is that a sign in Tom Wappel’s office? It looks familiar to another sign that sparked some controversy.

Is it really?

It is! Hooray for double standards!

Mr. Dion should ask some of his Toronto area MPs about their views. These photographs were taken today.

In 2005, Stephen Harper stated his views on legislation and abortion at the CPC policy convention:

“And, while I’m at it, I will tell you that, as prime minister, I will not bring forth legislation on the issue of abortion.”

FLASHBACK: Liberals are hypocrites on abortion

RELATED: Call the Parliament Hill window police

UPDATE: From Monday’s (8/25) Hill Times we learn that Tom Wappel took the sign from Rob Anders and put it up in his own window.

Re: “Tory MP Anders forced to remove ‘pro-life’ from East Block window” (The Hill Times, July 14, p. 1). Your article really intrigued me, as, in my 20 years as a Member of Parliament, I have never heard of a policy regarding what can or cannot be put in the window of Parliamentarians’ offices.

So I did a little digging. I contacted the Speaker’s office, the Sergeant-at-Arms Office, Canadian Heritage, the House Accommodation Services Office, and the Conservative Whip’s Office. Guess what? There is no policy!

Since there are signs in numerous other windows which were there before Mr. Anders removed his, and which are still there (e.g. “Veterans for Obama ’08 in the Confederation Building), I wanted to know why Mr. Anders’ sign (“Defend Life”) had been singled out for attention and removal. It turns out it was because someone had complained about it. Why? Since other signs remain in windows, it is clear that there have been no complaints about other signs. Thus the complaint has to be not about a sign in a window, but about a sign in a window which was assumed to be a pro-life sign in a window.

Well, I am proud to be pro-life. Being so is not a criminal offence (yet). Expressing my pro-life views is not illegal (yet). What can be more fundamental in the very seat of our democracy than our Charter cherished freedom of expression?

So, I have borrowed Mr. Anders’ innocuous sign and put it in my window in East Block, and there it will stay.

… — Tom Wappel

Why is Wappel free to express his views while Anders was rebuked? The Conservative “hidden agenda” narrative is ready to be resurrected by the media at a moment’s notice. It was a Liberal senate staffer that complained about the sign. What is her opinion of Wappel’s ability to express his opinion on the issue?

Call the Parliament Hill window police

Spotted in Hedy Fry’s 5th floor office window at the Confederation Building on Parliament Hill:

I’m not sure how Fry qualifies as a veteran, but she’s got the sign and she’s showing her support for the presumptive Democratic nominee for President!

Flashback from the Hill Times:

Conservative MP Rob Anders was recently forced to remove a “pro-life” sign from his East Block office window on Parliament Hill after receiving a formal letter of complaint from a Liberal Senate political staffer and after the chief government whip told him to take it down.

The large blue and white “Defend Life” Knights of Columbus sign could clearly be seen for a few weeks before it was removed on July 2 and one day after abortion rights activist Dr. Henry Morgentaler was named to the Order of Canada among 75 for one of Canada’s highest honours.

Amélie Crosson, an assistant to Ottawa Liberal Sen. Jim Munson, sent a formal letter of complaint to Mr. Anders, all MPs, Senators, assistants, party leaders, whips, and party caucus services, on June 27 after she noticed the sign on June 23 while walking to work.

Ms. Crosson told The Hill Times that in her 10 years on the Hill, she could not remember ever seeing a sign in a window before and after she found out whose office it was, she sent a letter of complaint to all MPs.

“All of us who work here are passionate about politics and specific political issues, but if we all start to decorate the exterior of our windows,” she wrote, “in no time, our Parliament Buildings will look like a collection of university frat houses.”

UPDDATE: I’ve received an email from Team Fry. It has been reprinted with permission from it’s author Tim Campbell.