Canada re-opens abortion, same-sex marriage culture wars
Is Canada heading into a new battle in the culture wars?
As Prime Minister Stephen Harper scrambled to contain a scandal over same-sex marriage today – of which he insisted he was unaware – one of his members of Members of Parliament is promising to table start-of-life legislation which would have significant ramifications for abortion and reproductive rights.
Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth, of Kitchener-Centre riding in Ontario, vowed to table legislation challenging Canada's definition of when human life begins, according to the Globe and Mail. He stated the move was squarely aimed at debating the country's abortion laws.
Harper has repeatedly insisted that his government will not re-open debate on the issue, despite declaring a ban on federal funding from supporting any foreign aid projects counseling or providing abortions, and another MP's attempt last year to end funding for Planned Parenthood.
On the same-sex issue, Harper declared he knew nothing of government court filings which suggested that non-Canadians' marriages performed here were null if they were not recognized in their home countries.
“I will admit to you that I am not aware of the details,” Harper told reporters. “This I gather is a case before the courts where Canadian lawyers have taken a particular position based on the law and I will be asking officials to provide me more details.
“We have no intention further of opening or reopening this issue.”
The issue came to the fore today after the Globe and Mail revealed that a British lesbian couple had their divorce rejected after government lawyers argued their marriage in Canada was not legal in the first place. Same-sex marriage is not legal in the U.K.
The New Democratic Party (NDP) reacted with outrage at the revelations, saying the scandal was “hugely embarrassing” and “backwards.”
“You can't say that you support gay marriage and then have lawyers say that you don't in court,” the NDP's Olivia Chow told reporters. “It's a very backwards way, and I think it will disappoint a lot of Canadians.
“I think Mr. Harper is hiding behind the law and using a backdoor way to say to these loving couples: 'Sorry, we no longer recognize your marriage.'”
With files from The Canadian Press.