Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 28, 2005
Pro-lifers happy with Tory convention
Conservative refuse to challenge abortion
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
During its first-ever policy convention March 16-19, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) resolved to defend traditional marriage but to maintain the status quo on abortion.
The pro-marriage resolution passed by an overwhelming 75 per cent, with a majority vote even in the province of Quebec.
"Now there is a clear, mainstream alternative to the Liberal extremism of legalizing prostitution, legalizing marijuana and changing the definition of marriage," said a March 20 news release from Defend Marriage.
The organization is a coalition of pro-family groups, which includes Campaign Life Coalition, the Catholic Civil Rights League, Real Women of Canada and the Canada Family Action Coalition.
"It's much better to be fighting the Liberals on one hot button issue we know we have broad support on than two," Peter Stock, a pro-family activist and former Conservative candidate, said in a telephone interview March 21. "Small 'c' conservatives got everything they wanted out of this convention."
However, pro-life delegates were disappointed about the resolution not to re-open abortion, but that doesn't mean they plan to abandon the party.
"We're here for the duration," Mary Ellen Douglas, an Ontario delegate and national organizer for Campaign Life Coalition, said in a telephone interview.
"We're not going anywhere."
"There's been a re-evaluation of strategy on the part of the pro-life movement," Stock said. "There's an element of realism and practicality that has entered into strategic calculations. They still hold their principles but they recognize there's a more effective way to achieve their objectives."
Douglas said Campaign Life's strategy is nothing new, however. For the past 30 years, Campaign Life has been trying to get pro-life members elected to Parliament in all parties and, through them, bring forward a law to protect the unborn, she said.
"What we want is to see solid men and women from all parties standing up for moral issues," she said. "Now we've started immediately in preparing for the next election."
"We're not devastated by anything that happens," Douglas said. "We just keep going."
When the resolution against abortion legislation came up on the convention floor, former Progressive Conservative MP Elsie Wayne made an impassioned plea for the unborn.
"Society has gone to hell in a handbag," Wayne said. "And that isn't the way the Conservatives want us to be. I do not believe the majority of our people at this convention are in favour of killing babies."
The resolution passed, however, 55 per cent to 45 per cent.
"I don't see this as a defeat, just an indication that more work needs to be done," said Stock, who sees the size of the pro-life minority as encouraging.
Pro-life delegates gave Conservative Leader Stephen Harper mixed reviews as well. In his March 18 speech to delegates, Harper promised to bring forward legislation that would give the same rights and benefits to all couples, while maintaining the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.
"As prime minister, I will not bring forth legislation on the issue of abortion," Harper promised, as he had before last June's federal election.
Connie Wilkins, president of the Kingston and the Islands Riding Association, drafted resolution P-94 opposed to partial birth abortion.
Her resolution never got debated or voted upon because of the passage of the previous resolution against abortion legislation.
She said Harper's support for that resolution was the most disappointing part of the convention and she blames his speech for its passage.
Wilkins said she will continue to support Conservative candidates who share her values.
Douglas said the passage of Resolution P-90, providing for free votes on the basis of conscience, was a victory for the pro-life movement.
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