Saturday, June 02, 2012

The pro-life meme, which may challenge Mr. Harper, comes with spin?

[Posted at Bene Diction Blogs On Nov 19, 2011] Did you think that Mr. Harper had the final word during the election when he said that a Tory government would not make any changes to the legal status of abortion in Canada? Think again, as some in Canada's pro-life movement have come up with an idea that they hope will reopen the debate, whether Mr. Harper and his brains trust wants to, or not. The word "debate" is key, as I will explain. But while I like the idea, what may be coming with it, well... A group of pro-lifers, centred on the Alliance For Life Ontario, has set up the group We Want The Debate. As their website explains,they reason that Canadians are not being provided with information about abortion. If they only knew, most Canadians would be more likely to oppose abortion. We have also been told by our current Prime Minister that neither our elected representatives nor indeed the people of Canada would be allowed to debate abortion during his term. We believe that is tyranny, not democracy," they write. They hope to have some sort of debate on abortion towards the end of January. I am guessing they hope for one in the House of Commons. Shortly after the announcement, a few weeks ago, conservative B.C. activist Kari Simpson (who has her own internet radio/Tv current affairs program, Roadkill Radio) sought to lend a hand. She did a special report with B.C. pro-life activist John Hof, B.C. Senator Gerry St. Germain and Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost, stating, as she put it, "We Demand The Debate." I am pro-life, myself, so the idea that a former valued source of mine, John Hof of the Campaign Life Coalition of B.C., advanced--that there should be a debate on abortion that "can't be Occupy Vancouver"--is attractive to me. However, while I also see a value in the debate, I see some spin at work in all this that I do feel obliged to point out. The fact that Brad Trost participated in the radio show allows me to point out the source of We Want The Debate's complaint. You'll remember that during the election, Trost bragged that he and other MPs had stopped Canadian government funding of Planned Parenthood work overseas. Harper sought to calm voters by saying this:
“As you know, in our party, as in any broadly based party, there are people with a range of views on this issue,” Harper said. “But I think I’ve been very clear as party leader.… As long as I’m prime minister we are not reopening the abortion debate."
Following up on this, Mr. Harper's government decided to give Planned Parenthood funding in a somewhat different manner, which I saw as a rebuke of Mr. Trost and other pro-lifers. Before my post, Mr. Trost possibly had already felt rebuked. A statement that he posted on his website that pro-life MPs needed to take an "aggressive stand" to make Harper pay attention to their views. However, the two pro-life politicians that participated in Kari Simpson's special program on the subject, which you may listen to here, were arguing for sweet reasonableness. B.C. Senator Gerry St. Germain, spoke about his brief remarks in the Senate on September 28 on the Katrina Effert court case. He had added in his speech about his apprehensions about what would happened if Canada had no legislation at all. The majority of Canadians, he argued to Kari Simpson's audience, could be trusted to help make wise decisions on the issue of abortion. "We have to have a civil debate and the extremes on either side have to be ignored," he said. MP Brad Trost's remarks on the program, given that he has locked horns with Mr. Harper, were interesting. I can briefly summarize him as making an implied argument that in other parliamentary democracies, such as Britain and Australia, there is much more leeward in allowing MPs to speak, and even disagree with government policy. He perceives an ongoing interest in abortion, amongst local Tories and constituents which compels him to raise the subject. "Canadians can debate issues, can debate them seriously, and throughly and if you are prepared top stand up for what you believe in, you can't be made into a caricature, or laughed at, or completely ignored," Mr Trost said. "Most Canadians are more open-minded than activists on both sides think. [Perhaps Mr. Trost would agree with me that even if the pro-life versus pro-choice issue is not directly addressed, the debate--and information on abortion in Canada in general--could be useful in a good governance sense. Is money being spent wisely, are abortions increasing or decreasing, and issues that all Canadians could fairly discuss.] When Mr. Trost addressed a need of pro-lifers to pressure the government, his amiability, perhaps, slipped a bit. He mentioned an unnamed MP that had spoken against Roxanne's Law who then surprisingly voted for the legislation. Trost and his pro-life friends asked why and he quotes the MP as follows: "I got some nasty e-mails and letters from the riding, so I figured that I'd better vote for Rod [Bruinooge's] bill." Kari Simpson, during the broadcast, applied the spin that has me somewhat concerned.In talking to Trost, she remembers Harper's remarks during the election and says "When I heard that, I went, 'like Hell!" adding that as a citizen of a democracy, she was free to say what she wanted on important issues." As an ex-reporter I was yelling at the computer as Roadkill Radio played "Ask him whether anything has happened to him due to his disagreement with Harper! If yes, doesn't that back up his implied arguments that there is censorship and that MPs are being treated unfairly? Wouldn't he want to mention that?" A similar case of the dog that did not bark in the night happened after Senator St. Germain's remarks on his Senate speech. He happened to add that two or three Senators congratulated him on his remarks. In commenting on what he said, however, Simpson was worried about being "confined to not speaking in our democracy" [Uh, didn't Senator St. Germain, er, talk?] "This debate is going to happen whether...Harper wants it or not," she added. The problem is that although people think that St. Germain and Trost are being silenced, they clearly are not. Neither of the politicians mentioned anything that the Tories did to censure or punish them, which would have been a goose laying a golden egg in regards to the need for such a debate. What I think Mr. Harper meant to say during the election--as demonstrated by how the government seems to be letting Trost and St. Germain speak--is that while his MPs are free to discuss abortion--the government, being content with letting the issue sit--had no plans to introduce legislation on the subject. I'd also suggest that Kari Simpson undermines in her argument, in her discussion with Trost, she mentions the great usefulness of various tools such as social media and the Internet, which are great to use in getting around "the media". Her own program is an admirable example of this, if you share her conservative point of view. But the idea that "we are being silenced" is perhaps undermined when you can broadcast the fact, and present a comprehensive point of view on the silenced subject. And as the links I've linked to show, the media is paying attention. As I mentioned, I am pro-life. But I am bothered by "David confront Goliath" allusions" when they are becoming less true than they were in the past. The idea for encouraging debate--in my opinion, is a very useful one. Which can stand on its own without spin. I decided to mention this because this seems to be becoming a widespread trend that I hope to discourage. Earlier this week, as Bene D mentioned, Damien Goddard has apparently filed his human rights case against Sportsnet.[He is arguing that he was fired because he stated his opposition to gay marriage in a Tweet.] If you look at the National Post's story, the paper adds this [emphasis mine]: Sportsnet has hinted other factors were involved in Mr. Goddard's termination. But some legal scholars say the issue surrounding the Toronto-based broadcaster - whose case is now with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal - is whether free speech is being eroded by new societal norms. It's something that I might think worth considering, but then I have conservative views. I can imagine someone on the other side of the question persuasively, "And this is demonstrated by one of Canada's national newspapers discussing the subject instead of burying the story..." I guess that it strikes me that creating rhetorical obstacles to what you want to do, which may not exist, strikes me as debating unfairly. Which, I would respectfully suggest, is something that people who try to be moral should try to not do.