Inside Politics

Tory MP wants to look into 'legal protection' of 'children before birth'

Just days after Stephen Woodworth launched his latest bid to reopen the abortion debate, a second Conservative backbencher has served notice that he, too, may soon put the question of what, if any, changes should be made to Canada's abortion laws to the parliamentary test.

The motions, which were added to the Order Paper by Saskatchewan MP Maurice Vellacott last Friday, incorporate slightly different wording, but share a common goal; namely, striking a special House committee to study the "legal protections" accorded to "children before birth," either by reviewing past court decisions for evidence of "any negative impact on women, men, children and Canadian society," or, alternately, looking at what changes might be required to bring the current regime in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Both proposals would have the committee to report back to the House within six months.

Not surprisingly, Vellacott's efforts have already garnered the approval of at least one pro-life group: WeNeedaLaw.ca, which lauds the initiative as "an early Christmas gift."

What's not clear, however, is whether Vellacott actually intends to bring one of the two motions forward when he gets bumped up to the private members' business priority list early next year.

After all, just last week, he was "quite honoured" to introduce a bill to rewrite Canada's divorce laws to do away with the concept of "custody orders" in order to, as the legislative summary puts it, "apply the principle of equal parenting," which he called "one of the most apolitical, non-partisan pieces of legislation introduced in this current Parliament."

"I look forward to strong support [...] from all members of Parliament who are committed to the best interests of our children," he told his colleagues.

Under the standing orders, MPs can place up to 4 items of private members' business on the Order Paper, but only one can be brought forward for second reading.

That means that Vellacott will have to drop his "equal parenting" bid if he wants to force a House vote on the rights of "children before birth."

The next replenishment of the private members' priority list is set to take place shortly after the House reopens for business following the holiday adjournment, which means Vellacott will have to make his choice soon.

Regardless of what his final decision will be, the resulting debate will be Vellacott's swan song in the private members' hour spotlight. Earlier this year, he announced that he wouldn't be running in the next election.  

The full text of his latest motions:


M-482 -- December 6, 2013 -- Mr. Vellacott (Saskatoon--Wanuskewin) -- That a special committee of the House be appointed to: (a) study the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada since 1988 related to children before birth in order to understand what the Supreme Court has said about Parliament's responsibility with respect to resolving public policy questions in this area; (b) propose options that the House and/or the government could take to address any negative impact these decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada may have had, directly or indirectly, on women, men, children and Canadian society; and that the committee consist of twelve members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, provided that the Chair be from the government party; that in addition to the Chair, there be one Vice-chair from each of the opposition parties; that the committee have all of the powers of a Standing Committee as provided in the Standing Orders; that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the membership report of the special committee be presented to the House no later than 20 sitting days after the adoption of this motion; that membership substitutions be permitted to be made from time to time, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2); and that the Committee report its recommendations to the House no later than 6 months after the adoption of this order.

M-483 -- December 6, 2013 -- Mr. Vellacott (Saskatoon--Wanuskewin) -- That a special committee of the House be appointed to determine what legal protections Canada ought to provide to children before birth, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada ratified in 1991, which states that "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth"; and that the committee consist of twelve members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, provided that the Chair be from the government party; that in addition to the Chair, there be one Vice-Chair from each of the opposition parties; that the committee have all of the powers of a Standing Committee as provided in the Standing Orders; that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the membership report of the special committee be presented to the House no later than 20 sitting days after the adoption of this motion; that membership substitutions be permitted to be made from time to time, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2); and that the Committee present its final report to the House no later than 6 months after the adoption of this order.

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