Trudeau sticks by decision to ban anti-abortion candidates from Liberal Party
Published Thursday, May 15, 2014 2:15PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 15, 2014 10:52PM EDT
Cardinal Thomas Collins, Toronto’s Roman Catholic archbishop, continues to ask federal Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau to rethink his stance on excluding candidates opposed to abortion rights from his party in the next election.
“Political leaders surely have the right to insist on party unity and discipline in political matters which are within the legitimate scope of their authority,” Collins wrote in an open letter posted on the archdiocese website on Wednesday.
“But that political authority is not limitless: it does not extend to matters of conscience and religious faith. It does not govern all aspects of life.”
Trudeau is standing by last week’s announcement, that his party would not accept those opposed to abortion as candidates.
Trudeau said Thursday he welcomes the input from the church, but his party is committed to the values laid out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"Since 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed that a woman's right to choose in this matter is part of her fundamental rights and freedoms," Trudeau said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in New Maryland, N.B., Thursday, was asked to weigh in. He said he doesn’t want to reopen the abortion debate. But he added that all views are welcome in his party.
“We understand the Canadian people have different often conflicting views on issues like this, deeply held views, and all such views are welcome in the Conservative Party of Canada,” he told reporters.
Harper was asked whether Health Canada would intervene to force the New Brunswick government to remove obstacles and delays to publicly funded abortions. Harper sidestepped the question, saying, “The administration of health-care systems is in the hands of the provinces."
Collins, meanwhile, remains focused for now on Trudeau, who was raised a Catholic. He said in his letter that Trudeau was excluding many potentially worthy Liberal candidates.
“Among the 2 million Catholics of my archdiocese, there are members of all political parties, including your own,” he wrote.
Collins said he encourages those in his archdiocese to become engaged in political life, and Trudeau’s policy denies them that.
“Political leaders in our day should not exclude such people of integrity, no matter how challenging they find their views,” he wrote.
Trudeau’s office issued a statement on Thursday reaffirming his stance on the policy.
“Like all other Canadians, Cardinal Collins has the freedom to express his deeply held beliefs. We obviously respect the Cardinal, and his views,” said the statement. “This is a matter of rights, and Canadians need to know that when they vote Liberal, they will get a representative who supports and defends women’s rights.”
Collins will not be telling his archdiocese how to vote in any upcoming elections, he told CTV News in a phone interview on Thursday.
“This is not a partisan thing,” Collins said.“My concern is when any political leader of any party starts going beyond issues which are within his legitimate scope of authority and starts dictating to conscience, and I think that is just not right.”