Scheer firm on leaving abortion debate closed

The abortion debate has divided Canadians for decades, and Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer says that’s precisely why he’s staunchly opposed to reopening the issue.

Policy line on abortion legislation was up for vote at Conservative Party convention

'I have made it very clear, I will not reopen these types of divisive social issues,' federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer told CBC Radio's The House on Saturday. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The abortion debate has divided Canadians for decades, especially within the Conservative Party, and that's precisely why Andrew Scheer says he's staunchly opposed to reopening the issue.

In advance of a vote on the subject at the party's policy convention Scheer told CBC Radio's The House he's not interested in creating a chasm between Canadians — or his own caucus. 

"I have made it very clear, I will not reopen these types of divisive social issues," Scheer told host Chris Hall.

One of the policy resolutions put to a vote Saturday afternoon at the Conservative Party convention dealt with the party's line on abortion legislation.

The motion — moved forward on Friday by just over 80 per cent of delegates participating in a breakout session — sought to remove the article dealing with the party's official position from its policy book, which states, "A Conservative Government will not support any legislation to regulate abortion."

The resolution would have opened up the issue for further debate and free a Conservative government to introduce anti-abortion legislation. In the end, delegates voted 53 per cent to 47 per cent to retain the current policy.

While factions of the Opposition party oppose abortion, former prime minister Stephen Harper and now Scheer both refused to reopen the legislation.

"We have a variety of views in our party, a variety of views in our caucus. We will not be reintroducing this type of legislation that would divide our caucus and divide Canadians," Scheer insisted.

Unity has been the underlying theme of Scheer's message to the convention, highlighted even more after he faced the departure of MP Maxime Bernier, who said the party was too "intellectually and morally corrupt" to be reformed.

Scheer's speech on Friday at the convention emphasized the need to move forward together as one cohesive party.

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer talks about his plan to win in 2019 and some of the policies that could become planks in the party's platform. 8:49

Conservative caucus split despite hard line from leader

Under the previous Harper government, six Conservative backbench MPs introduced bills or motions dealing with abortion.

During the last federal election, Conservative MP Rachael Harder said she would introduce and pass laws to protect "unborn children," while adding she believed life begins at the time of conception.

Canada's pre-existing abortion law was struck down in 1988 by the Supreme Court of Canada. The justices ruled it violated a woman's right to "life, liberty and security of person."

In May, Conservative MP Ted Falk caused controversy in the House of Commons after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised his government would always defend the right of women to have an abortion.

In response, Falk yelled out: "It's not a right."

Scheer later said he had spoken with Falk about the incident.

The Conservative leader has spoken out in opposition of the Liberals' summer jobs funding application form, which required organizations applying for grants to confirm they supported a woman's reproductive rights.

"I believe that the federal government should respect the freedoms that Canadians enjoy to have different beliefs and that by imposing personal values of Justin Trudeau on a wide variety of groups is not an appropriate way to go," Scheer said in January.

There were at least two anti-abortion exhibition booths at the Conservative Party's convention in Halifax this week. The convention will finish voting on planks for its 2019 platform Saturday afternoon.

Clarifications

  • This story has been updated from a previous version that said delegates voted 53 to 47 to defeat the resolution to remove the policy on abortion. In fact, it was 53 per cent to 47 per cent.
    Aug 27, 2018 4:31 PM ET

About the Author

Elise von Scheel

Elise von Scheel is a reporter with the CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. She is currently an associate producer for The House. Before joining the politics team, she was a reporter for CBC News in Ottawa. You can get in touch with her at elise.von.scheel@cbc.ca.