Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 14, 2004
Harper distances himself from MP's pro-life stance
WCR quotes spark media abortion questions
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
Quotes from the Western Catholic Reporter took centre stage in the federal election campaign June 7 with Conservative leader Stephen Harper distancing himself from the remarks made by an Ontario Tory MP.
During a talk at the annual March for Life on Parliament Hill May 13, Cheryl Gallant, the MP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, equated abortion with the beheading of American Nicholas Berg by terrorists in Iraq. It is "absolutely no different," she said (WCR, May 24).
Confronted with the report from Canadian Catholic News, Harper told reporters in Calgary, "Cheryl Gallant is a very strong pro-life MP, and this is the rhetoric that the pro-life movement often uses."
He added, "It's their business. I don't think it's particularly effective in changing public opinion. . . Abortion is going to go on one way or the other, and I think it's part of life, rightly or wrongly. I wouldn't say I like abortion, but I think abortion is a reality that is with us."
The comments came as Liberals increased their attacks on Harper and his social policies, which include an apparent willingness to invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to legislate against same-sex marriage. The party's platform is to fight to give parliamentarians a greater voice and to "ensure that issues like marriage are decided by Parliament, not the courts."
Prime Minister Paul Martin accused Harper of trying to roll back rights entrenched in the charter. "Canadians have every right to be deeply concerned by the grave threat a Harper government would pose to the charter," he said. "The charter entrenches fundamental rights enjoyed by every Canadian, regardless of race, gender, religious background or sexual orientation. It protects us against government intervention in our lives and safeguards minorities from the ire of a hostile majority."
Harper dismisses the Liberals' attacks as a campaign of fear coming from a party whose support is slipping at the polls. As well, he says, "nobody believes anything they say."
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