Catholics face barriers to political involvement – Smith

May 26, 2014

EDMONTON – The stances of Canada's three main federal parties on abortion raises "serious obstacles" to Catholic involvement in the political process, says Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith.

The Church encourages its members to be involved in politics by voting and expressing their views, Smith said in an interview.

But with the Liberals and NDP saying they will not accept pro-life candidates and the Conservative government barring its MPs from reopening the abortion debate, Smith said the parties are excluding people of informed conscience who could be of great service to the country.

Many Catholics of great integrity "could serve this country well in what is a noble vocation, the political one, putting themselves at the service of the country," he said.

The Catholic population, the archbishop continued, should in general rise up and say, "This is an unacceptable stance for any party to be taking."

In particular, Smith challenged federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau who said on May 7, the day before the national March for Life in Ottawa, that future Liberal MPs will be expected to vote against bills that would reopen the abortion debate.

Trudeau is guilty of both confused thinking and trampling on fundamental human rights in barring the nomination of pro-life candidates for his party, Smith said.

"I was outraged for a couple of reasons," Smith said in the interview.

"Here you have a man who is leader of a national party, who would like to be prime minister, taking an occasion when thousands of people are gathered to support life to make a statement that slaps them in the face and to say that your voice has no significance to me. That's an outrage."

Smith also chastised the Liberal leader for saying that someone who would follow his conscience is not welcome as a candidate for his party.

"Quite apart from that immature, adolescent action, what we have is a man saying that he's quite willing to override fundamental human rights – the right to life and the right to conscience."

A party that says on fundamental issues, its members are not allowed to follow their consciences is "in my estimation not worthy of public trust."

Smith said he directed his comments at the Liberal leader because he was the one who currently addressed the issue.

"It's also outrageous that the NDP has long held this (same policy). This applies equally to them."

He was also critical of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for "a lack of leadership" on the abortion issue. Harper has said he will not allow Conservative MPs to reopen the abortion issue.

"The Conservatives on this are a huge disappointment."

Polls, Smith said, consistently show that many, if not most, Canadians are dissatisfied with having no law regulating abortion in Canada.

"How is it that the prime minister is unwilling to open that debate? I just think that's a lack of leadership."

Letter to the Editor – 07/07/14