Madam Speaker, I would really like to say that I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-233, which was introduced by the member for Yorkton—Melville, but that would be a lie.
Unlike what some would have us believe, Bill C-233 does not seek to restore the balance between the situation of young girls and young boys. It is not a bill to combat sexism. It is anti-abortion legislation, period. It is a pretext, a roundabout way for the member to achieve her purpose, an attempt to reopen a debate that we hoped had been closed for several decades now. The member is shamefully using and hijacking the discourse on human rights to hide other intentions. I am not trying to freely impute motives, unlike what some of my colleagues might try to accuse me of following my speech.
This is a fairly well documented situation, which was the subject of at least two CBC reports just before the last election in which the journalists talked about new pro-life lobbying methods. As an aside, I want to mention that, in my opinion, the term “pro-life” is a term that has been overused so that people do not have to say anti-abortion, even though that is what it means.
The groups featured in these reports have abandoned certain strategies in recent years and have adopted new ones. Their stated purpose is to get dozens of anti-abortion members elected. Alissa Golob, one of the cofounders of the group RightNow, explained on camera that if, instead of spending two hours holding a sign on the sidewalk, they were to spend that time knocking on doors for a candidate, it would probably be a much more effective use of their time.
In the report that was recorded in June 2019, RightNow explained that it was employing several tactics. First, the group encourages pro-life activists to run for office. Then, during the nomination races in various ridings, it suggests to its supporters that they become members of a party that is running a pro-life candidate and that they vote for that candidate, obviously. Finally, RightNow's volunteers go door to door to find voters who would be willing to support anti-abortion politicians. The day of the election, the group encourages voters to go vote. Without specifically naming them, the lobby admitted to targeting some fifty-odd ridings during the 2019 election.
Scott Hayward, another co-founder of RightNow, explained in the same report that the group's objective was to get into the corridors of power to pass legislation that will reduce the number of abortions in Canada as much as possible. He conceded that the strategy to have a total ban on abortion was doomed to failure. This group's new strategy is to take incremental steps.
Another news report from September 2019 revealed the communications strategy of lobby groups. Their strategy is to attack the consensus that the issue of women's right to control their own bodies is a debate that should be considered to have been closed for decades.
Although the leader of the Conservative Party at the time, the current member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, who has openly stated that he is pro-life, said in the last election campaign that the debate would not be reopened, the same story reported otherwise. The report reminded readers that backbenchers would nevertheless have the right to introduce private members' bills seeking to restrict the right to abortion.
The group We Need a Law is another anti-abortion group. The same news report explained that its approach is to lobby the public and politicians to convince them that Canada needs an abortion law.
It is important to remember that the general situation in Canada is that we trust women to make their own decision, and we trust doctors, who receive guidelines from their associations that cover the stage of pregnancy starting at which specific criteria must be taken into consideration before they can sign off on termination. According to We Need a Law, in order to change the law, we must first change the way people think. For both We Need a Law and Right Now, that means the discourse must be refreshed, but also softened.
These days, anti-abortion groups are deliberately softening their approach. They are moving away from the all-or-nothing route and focusing more on a middle-of-the-road approach, and guess what? One of their strategies involves creating a precedent with abortion-related legislation, particularly by trying to get laws passed that seek to criminalize sex-selective abortion or to ban abortions after a certain point in the pregnancy.
Bill C-233, the bill before us today, fits that pattern exactly. It seeks to chip away at abortion rights with the stated long-term goal of making it harder and harder to access abortion. That is the frame of mind we need to put ourselves in as we examine this bill.
After all that, I have not even talked about the many other problems with Bill C-233, such as the potential interference in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction.
The member for Yorkton—Melville is clearly trying to use the Criminal Code to regulate medical practice, which is not something that falls under federal jurisdiction. However, we have become accustomed to this tactic. It is something that we debated in the House just yesterday during the study of Bill C-268, which seeks to criminalize certain aspects of medical assistance in dying as a way to indirectly sabotage something for which there is a consensus, particularly in Quebec.
I am not even talking about the difficulties associated with implementing Bill C-233, which would involve a major violation of doctor-patient confidentiality for charges to be laid under the Criminal Code provisions Bill C-233 proposes.
Nor am I talking about the possible consequences of this bill for racialized people. If Bill C-233 passes, doctors could engage in profiling by only asking pregnant women of Asian or Indian origin, communities in which sex-selective abortion seems statistically more prevalent.
No, I am going to talk about what is behind Bill C-233.
I am talking about the red herring and the tactic that some members use when they say they do not want to reopen the abortion debate but then turn around and introduce bills like Bill C-233 to do just that. I urge the bill's sponsor and her leader to at least have the decency and transparency to acknowledge the real purpose of the legislation they put forward.
I was born in 1984, only four years before the Supreme Court ruled in the Morgentaler case. From that moment on, logically, my adult life should not have been punctuated by attempts to ensure that others could decide in my stead what is good for me or dictate what I should be doing with my own body. What is being proposed is a step backwards and a disservice to the progress that women's rights have supposedly made since then. That is why I believe it is still relevant to quote Simone de Beauvoir, who said, “Never forget that it only takes one political, economic or religious crisis for women's rights to be put in jeopardy. Those rights can never be taken for granted. You will have to remain vigilant your whole life”.
Let us not be fooled. Let us stay vigilant, as she said. This bill is nothing more than the umpteenth iteration of a form of antiquated bigotry temporarily clad in the guise of feminism, which is suddenly so timely. No matter how sugar-coated the pill is or how polished Bill C-233 looks, we must not lose sight of the fact that, deep down, it is motivated by values that have no place in a democratic institution.
Because I am a woman, because I am a feminist and because I am progressive, I simply cannot support Bill C-233.