September 17, 2012 Press Conference Remarks
September 17, 2012
Thank you for coming today. The second hour of debate on Motion 312 will occur this week, on September 21 at 1:30pm and the vote next week on September 26, 2012.
Motion 312 proposes no legislation of any kind – only a study.
This honours the Canadian ideal – that when we have differences, we don’t turn our backs to one another; instead we have a respectful dialogue.
Motion 312 is focussed solely on Subsection 223(1). That’s our 400 year old definition of human being. It says a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth.
Until a child’s little toe pops out of the birth canal, the child is not recognized as a human being in Canada.
I’d like people to think about what that means! Think about what Subsection 223(1) means if like most Canadians you believe that a child is a human being at some point well before the moment of complete birth!
It means that Subsection 223(1) is a law which dehumanizes and excludes a whole class of people!! If we had a law which dehumanized and excluded any other class of people than children before birth, you would immediately recognize how shocking it is. If we did this today to African Americans as in 19th Century America, or to women as in 20th Century Canada or to mentally challenged people as in 1930’s Germany you would be shocked. Subsection 223(1) is no less shocking.
Any law which dehumanizes and excludes an entire class of people is an assault on the principle of universal human rights. A law which picks and chooses who to dehumanize and exclude, without regard to the intrinsic equal worth and dignity of every individual is the worst, most unjust law anyone could imagine. It has no place in Canada or in any civilized nation. No one is safe if such laws are accepted as legitimate.
So Motion 312 defends the idea that basic human rights are universal, not a gift of the state that can be cancelled by whoever might control the government.
I want people to look carefully at subsection 223(1)! Think about what it means for you!
Subsection 223(1) denies the inherent worth and dignity of every human being and gives you only the value the government assigns to you.
This is completely contrary to the ideal of Canada that generations of Canadians have lived – and died – for.
Here are my observations about the debate on Motion 312 up to now:
1. First, the intensity of our discussion has been no different than the intensity of any other policy issue. In May 15,000 to 20,000 people marched through Ottawa asking Parliament to resolve this issue, among others. No store windows were broken. No police cruisers were burned. The most that was reported were one or two “heated arguments”.
In other words, this turns out not to be such a difficult issue, after all. Or, even if it is a passionate debate, we’ve proven that we can talk about the evidence and legal principles in an intelligent, democratic way.
2. Second, opponents of Motion 312 say a lot of ironic things.
Am I the only one to find it just a little humorous that those who bravely leap to defend a 400 year old law against the light of 21st century evidence, accuse me of going back to the Middle Ages?
Also isn’t it ironic that I’m accused of reopening an issue that Court after Court after Court, beginning with Justice Bertha Wilson in the Morgentaler decision, has deliberately left open for Parliament to resolve? Not to mention millions of Canadians who want Parliament to bring closure to what the Courts have left open?
Isn’t it ironic that I’m accused of “re-opening” an issue that’s never been closed when I’m the only person in Canada with a plan to resolve this issue – beginning with an informed review of evidence and principles?
Here’s another irony – I’m accused of wanting to reverse Supreme Court decisions about women’s rights when Motion 312 itself actually insists that Parliament must respect Supreme Court decisions. Why has no one talked about that aspect of Motion 312?
3. My next observation is that opponents of Motion 312 absolutely refuse to talk about what Motion 312 actually says.
For example, they completely ignore the proviso in Motion 312 that Supreme Court decisions must be respected.
And I heard no one disagree with Motion 312’s suggestion that children actually might be human beings before the moment of complete birth.
I haven’t heard anyone try to justify the fact that subsection 223(1) decrees that a whole class of people should be dehumanized and excluded.
No one has been bold enough to try to defend a law that dishonestly misrepresents who is or is not a human being.
No one has been bold enough to admit that they are willing to let this law drive a spike through the principle of universal human rights.
And how could they? So instead they try to sweep these appalling facts under the carpet, ignoring them, and try to talk about everything else.
4. There are two main distractions opponents of Motion 312 have used to avoid talking about the fact that no law can ever be legitimate that dishonestly dehumanizes and excludes a whole class of people.
A. The first distraction is to try to talk about me. What kind of character do I have? What are my motives? What do I want the Special Committee to conclude?
This is simply to distract from what Motion 312 actually says. It’s an old, old approach – if you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger. Academics call it the ad hominem fallacy.
Focussing on personality instead of policy results in fiction, in appeals to prejudice, and in distraction from real policy examination. For example, a few months ago an atrocious slander, a bold-faced lie, was circulated on Twitter about my views on sexual assault.
My motives are totally irrelevant to what Motion 312 actually says. I might drop dead the day after Motion 312 passes, and my motives would die with me, but Motion 312 would still say what Motion 312 says: “let’s just get better informed about our 400 year old definition of human being.”
B. The other major distraction is to talk about abortion when the sole issue in Motion 312 is our 400 year old definition that decrees that some human beings are not human beings. It’s worth taking a few minutes to make clear the relationship between Motion 312 and abortion.
Does anyone believe that we need to pretend that a child at eight or nine months development is not a human being in order to justify abortion? Does abortion access really depend upon that kind of fraud?
Even Justice Bertha Wilson, in throwing out our last abortion law, agreed that birth was the wrong criteria to protect the rights and interests of children. And she did not regard a Parliamentary study of this issue to be inconsistent with her decision on abortion.
Even deciding when a child should be considered a human being will not settle the questions around abortion. Moreover, Motion 312 actually insists that no decision be made by the Special Committee. Motion 312 insists that all options should be reported.
Will abortion become illegal if Motion 312 passes? No!
The only result of Motion 312 will be that Parliament – and all Canadians – will be better informed.
Maybe better information will cause some Canadians to have second thoughts about abortion. But since when is causing doubts a good reason to suppress the facts about a 400 year old law that misrepresents who is a human being?
On the other hand, deciding to tolerate a law that falsely denies who is a human being actually has much more important consequences than even the abortion issue.
Tolerating subsection 223’s dehumanization and exclusion of a whole class of people means giving Government the ability to take away basic human rights with false definitions.
Have we really lost a consensus in Canada that every law must be honest? Have we really lost a consensus in Canada that the dignity and worth of every human being must be equally recognized?
And, most of all, when we face important issues, do Canadians refuse to talk, or do we look for common ground in the evidence and principles?
Should such an important 400 year old law be frozen in time forever?
Should such an important 400 year old law be forever immune from democratic review?
Should a 400 year old definition of human being be forever immune from advances in modern understanding?
Every Member of Parliament has a grave and clear obligation to oppose by conscientious objection laws which are an assault on fundamental human rights. Indifference and silence must be shattered by truth in every age.
I am happy to take questions.