Inside Politics

UPDATED - Warawa will fight for right to vote on sex-selective abortion motion

As predicted in countless private members' business-related posts passim and, most recently, in today's OotD, Conservative MP Mark Warawa's non-binding motion to condemn sex-selective abortion has been deemed non-votable by unanimous vote of the subcommittee charged with overseeing private members`business. 

As a result, the government has won the first in what will likely be a series of procedural battles that will be waged in pursuit of its ultimate goal: avoiding a reprise of the internal caucus divisions brought on by Stephen Woodworth's bid to strike a committee on the legal definition of 'human being,' which did, of course, eventually go down to defeat -- but not before garnering the public support of a majority of backbenchers, as well as several high profile ministers, including Jason Kenney and, most unexpectedly, Rona Ambrose.

In any case, Warawa has the right to appeal the decision of the subcommittee -- which, I'm told, he will all but certainly do -- by making the case for reconsideration before the full procedure and house affairs committee within five days of the subcommittee report being tabled thither.

If he fails to persuade the committee to overturn the ruling, Warawa can put the question to the House of Commons as a whole -- provided, that is, that he has the support of at least five MPs -- by filing a motion with the speaker, who will then proceed to call for a vote, which is conducted via secret ballot over the next two days. 

Read all about the appeal process via the parliamentary website right here -- and stay tuned! 

UPDATE: It seems Warawa doesn't intend to go down quietly: 

: I'm advised that the necessary notice of appeal has been submitted to the procedure and house affairs committee. As soon as I know more, I'll post an update. 

In the interim, here's what the Institute for Marriage and Family Canada had to say about today's ruling:

Today, the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada is shocked to learn that a three member sub-committee of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs declared a non-binding motion to condemn sex selection abortion "non-votable."  

There are no clear reasons why this motion should not have passed the votability requirements.  M-408 was brought forward by Member of Parliament Mark Warawa and called for the following: "That the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination."  

Motion 408 would have made a simple and yet important statement that Canada unilaterally condemns gender discrimination against women, starting in the womb. Declaring the motion non-votable means the House of Commons will not discuss and debate the issue, which would have helped shed light on this abhorrent practice.  

M-408 would have uniformly condemned the practice of sex selection. However, as a motion, not a bill, there would be no legislation associated with the matter.  

"92% of Canadians believe gender discrimination starting in the womb is wrong. That our elected officials want to shy away from discussing this puts them at odds with the general public. The House of Commons is a place to represent Canadians, not refrain from dialogue and debate for political reasons," says Andrea Mrozek, Executive Director of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada.  

"By all objective standards, M-408 should have passed and moved forward in our democratic process. We will be tracking with this to learn more," concludes Mrozek.

INSTA-UPDATE TO THE LAST UPDATE: Courtesy of Mark Warawa's office, his full response. 

Short version: It's on, PMO. 

 Today, following a shocking and undemocratic decision by the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business, Langley MP Mark Warawa announced his intention to appeal this decision "as far as necessary," which could include an unprecedented secret ballot in the House of Commons.     

"Motion 408's call to condemn discrimination against women and girls is definitely in order," said Warawa, noting that "MPs must defend their right vote on issues of the day."     

According to the rules of the House, there are only four criteria by which a piece of Private Members' Business may be deemed non-votable. 

They are:  

1.      Bills and motions must not concern questions that are outside federal jurisdiction.  
2.      Bills and motions must not clearly violate the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  
3.      Bills and motions must not concern questions that are substantially the same as ones already voted on by the House of Commons in the current session of Parliament.  
4.      Bills and motions must not concern questions that are currently on the Order Paper or Notice Paper as items of government business.     

An impartial expert from the Library of Parliament repeatedly and emphatically stated M-408 is fully compatible with all four criteria.     

Despite the analyst's expert opinion, the Subcommittee mistakenly decided that M-408 should be deemed non-voteable.  Members stated that it falls outside the jurisdiction of the Federal Government and is similar to a motion already voted on in the House.     

"My motion is fully in line with the criteria to deem Private Members' Business votable," said Warawa. "The idea that Members of Parliament aren't allowed to express an opinion on any subject is beyond belief." 

The next step is for the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to decide whether to allow the Subcommittee's report to stand. This meeting is expected to be public and to include verbal and written submissions from Warawa.

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