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The Canadian federal election Oct. 14 will bring to an end a five-week campaign that offered little to religiously motivated voters, especially socially conservative ones.
BY TERRY O’NEILLTERRY O’NEILL
OTTAWA — While Americans are steeped
in the presidential election campaign, their northern neighbors will be voting
in the coming week.
The Canadian federal election Oct.
14 will bring to an end a five-week campaign that offered little to religiously
motivated voters, especially pro-family ones. (See: Palin Power Hits Canada,
Indeed, while issues such as
abortion and the protection of marriage are regular and important grist for the
American presidential election mill — and gained new prominence with the
nomination of evangelical pro-lifer Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican
vice-presidential candidate — the two topics have disappeared from the Canadian
This, in spite of the fact that
polls continue to show that, in the case of abortion for example, the majority
of Canadians do not support the status quo of a legal vacuum that leaves the
practice completely unregulated.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper went
as far as to say that he is ruling out reopening a debate over abortion law for
a future Conservative government.
“I simply have no intention of ever
making the abortion question a focus of my political career,” he said,
according to a Sept. 29 article in The Globe and Mail. A
Harper spokesman affirmed to the paper that Harper would prevent any of his
cabinet members from supporting any private party member’s bills that could
reopen the debate.
The result of ruling out substantive
issues? “If you look at the current campaign being conducted, it’s all name
calling,” said Ron Gray, leader of the pro-life Christian Heritage Party.
Gray, whose party attracted just
0.2% of the popular vote in the 2006 election, said, “All of the campaign ads
up until now have been primarily attacking the character of the leaders. That’s
what happens when you rule out so many issues.”
The paucity of values-related
substance is no accident. The ruling Conservative Party, headed by Prime Minister
Harper, has veered leftward in an attempt to capture more moderate voters and
win a majority government.
Faron Ellis, a political scientist
at Alberta’s Lethbridge College, sees the move as an attempt by Harper to
protect his party from attacks generated by his further-left rivals, the
Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois, which fields
candidates only in the province of Quebec, a crucial electoral battleground
that also happens to be the home of the most voters in the country who don’t
conservatism was tagged [by Conservative strategists] as a key element that the
party had to be inoculated against,” Ellis said.
took same-sex “marriage,” which was legalized by Canada’s previous Liberal
government in July 2005, off this year’s campaign table by staging a free vote
in the House of Commons in late 2006. A majority of Members of Parliament voted
against revisiting the previous Liberal government’s decision.
Harper, “I don’t see reopening this question in the future.”
was looking like it might emerge as an issue in this campaign after
Conservative Member of Parliament Ken Epp introduced a private member’s bill to
make it a separate offense to injure or kill a fetus while committing a violent
crime against pregnant women.
when pro-abortionists said they feared the bill would open the door to the
introduction of fetal rights and thereby threaten the current unrestricted
right to abortion, Conservative Justice Minister Rob Nicholson undercut the
bill by announcing in late August he would introduce competing legislation to
allow judges to take pregnancy into account only as an aggravating factor when
sentencing criminals convicted of assault.
bills have a far greater chance of becoming law than do private members’ bills.
move left many socially conservative voters angry, but Harper suggested in a
mid-September interview that they should not expect to “get everything [they]
Harper, “We represent many interests, not just within the party, but as the
government, the broad interests of the Canadian population.”
no major party opposing abortion or same-sex “marriage,” Catholics must look to
individual candidates’ positions for direction on how to vote.
who cast a vote for a politician who supports abortion and same-sex ‘marriage’
commit moral evil, if a moral candidate is available,” wrote Father Alphonse de
Valk, editor of Catholic
Insight magazine, in a letter to
Catholic voters. “Advancing pro-abortion candidates and their aims is
incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
in a later interview, Father de Valk said he believes the main reason Canada’s
major parties have concluded that pro-family issues are toxic is because the
country’s political landscape changed dramatically during the decade-and-a-half
rule of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, a socially “progressive”
Liberal who resigned from office in 1984.
was a baptized Catholic, but he didn’t think that Catholic moral teaching
should have any effect on public life,” said Father de Valk.
impacting Canada’s current political climate, he said, is the fact that
“Catholicism in Quebec has disastrously disappeared.”
in 1955, 80% percent of Quebeckers were active Catholics, in 2000, only 8%
were, Father de Valk said, even though the large majority of the province’s
population remains nominally Catholic.
an indication of how far out of favor Catholicism has fallen in the province,
Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe publicly criticized the Conservatives for
fielding a candidate, Nicole Charbonneau Barron, on the specific ground of her
reported membership in Opus Dei.
Duceppe, whose left-leaning party has the most Quebec Members of Parliament in
the current Canadian Parliament, “Those people certainly share an ideology, a
narrow ideology, that doesn’t correspond at all to the modern times in Quebec.”
the national stage, Barbara Kay, a pro-family columnist with the Toronto-based National Post
newspaper, blames the lack of campaign focus on life and family issues on the
fact Canada is generally more irreligious than the U.S.
even Canadians who are churchgoers tend to be more liberal than their American
counterparts, she added.
of our huge values is secularity,” said Kay, who is a member of the
Reconstructionist branch of Judaism.
all this, Catholic voters face some difficult decisions.
The Social Affairs Commission of the Canadian
Conference of Catholic Bishops admitted in its mid-September voters’ guide that
“choices can be tough” for Catholics when a candidate or party holds “values
that are not fully in line with Church teaching.”
commission urged Catholic Canadians to vote, but to do so “with discernment,”
paying special attention to Catholic moral and social teaching.
the Canadian bishops directed the attention of Catholic voters to four areas:
respect for the life and dignity of the human person, the preferential option
for the poor, Canadian participation in the war in Afghanistan and the
believe in the responsible use of freedom to promote human life and dignity at
all stages, from conception to death, no matter the circumstances,” the
bishops’ guide stressed.
life, the guide said, includes “protecting the right to life for even the
smallest — the human embryo and the human fetus — who are members of the human
family, and also offering assistance to pregnant women who are facing difficult
Terry O’Neill writes from
Activist Priest Steps
MONTREAL — Canada’s political left
lost a controversial clerical champion in early September after the Vatican
ordered Father Raymond Gravel to choose between the priesthood and politics.
Father Gravel, a one-time homosexual
prostitute who entered the priesthood in the 1980s, only to become an opponent
of Church teachings on same-sex “marriage” and abortion, was elected to the
House of Commons as a Bloc Quebecois Member of Parliament in a 2006 by-election
after Bishop Gilles Lussier of Joliette granted him permission to run.
Later, Canadian Catholics registered
complaints with the apostolic nuncio about Father Gravel’s pro-abortion
comments in Parliament, including his support of abortionist Henry
Morgentaler’s appointment to the Order of Canada.
The Vatican subsequently ordered
Father Gravel to leave either politics or the priesthood. He announced in early
September he had chosen not to run for reelection, telling the Montreal
Gazette Sept. 3 that “the religious
right” was responsible for the complaints that forced his departure from
The Vatican’s instruction stems from
Church teaching that priests should generally avoid entering politics, unless
they do so to further the interests of the faith, Msgr. Roch Page of Ottawa’s
Saint Paul University told the press.
One of the groups that contacted the
Vatican about Father Gravel’s political activities was the Campaign Life
In its February 2008 newsletter, the
pro-life organization said Father Gravel’s political career clearly wasn’t
advancing the Church’s interests.
Said Campaign Life, “Certainly,
making speeches undermining the teachings of the Catholic Church on the
sanctity of human life indicates that Father Gravel is not the man to defend
the Church’s interests.” — Terry