Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau

October 6, 2014

Seven former Liberal MPs have publicly called on Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to rescind his policy requiring all Liberal MPs to vote in favour of abortion.

In the letter published Sept. 18, former Liberal MP Pat O'Brien and the other six MPs expressed concern over Trudeau's demand Liberal candidates "agree to park their consciences at the entrance to the House of Commons and vote directly opposite to their fundamental beliefs, as directed by you."

The MPs warned that "if your order is not rescinded, it will stand as a precedent for you, and future Liberal leaders, to issue similar edicts on other moral issues, such as being either for or against assisted suicide, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, animal/human genetic splicing/mixing and many such issues which we cannot even imagine today, but which may develop as our technological knowledge increases at an ever more rapid pace."

"After all, if the leader can ban people from running for the party because they are opposed to abortion, then why not because they advocate euthanasia, or agree with human cloning, or are opposed to either or both these concepts?

"Where does one draw the line?" the former MPs wrote.

The former MPs, all of whom represented Ontario constituencies, are Garnet Bloomfield, Murray Calder, Rex Crawford, O'Brien, John O'Reilly, Janko Peric and Tom Wappel.

They described Trudeau's position as "undemocratic" and contrary to a long-standing policy within the Liberal Party to allow free votes on conscience issues.

"For you to fully reverse this wise, long-held position of all your predecessors, without any cogent reason, legal or otherwise, has the potential to alienate many former Liberal voters," they wrote.

O'Brien said the group decided to release its letter now that Parliament has just resumed sitting after the summer break. During the break, MPs are "very attuned" to the views of their constituents.


"They heard grumblings throughout the summer from people, from traditional Liberal supporters, on Trudeau's dictatorial stand denying people the right to vote their conscience," O'Brien said in an interview.

"We thought we would deliver the message when [Trudeau's] attention would be the sharpest," he said.

Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) national president Jim Hughes applauded the former MPs' demand that "the Liberal leader retract his 'no choice, but pro-choice' position on future Liberal candidates."

Trudeau, however, shows no sign of revising his position.


In an interview Sept. 14 with CBC's Michael Enright, he said the "the rights that women have fought for over decades to be in control of their own bodies and to control their own reproductive health is not a right that I'm going to brush aside to defend the freedom of speech or the freedom to vote a particular way for an MP."

"A Liberal MP can still have his or her personal beliefs and personal faith," he said. "But they cannot vote to take away women's fundamental rights. That's all I've said."

"I'd like him to show me where that right is defined in law," said O'Brien. "There's nothing in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteeing a woman has the 'right' to choose [abortion]."

"The Supreme Court of Canada never guaranteed the right to abortion either," he said.

O'Brien expressed concern Trudeau has "shrunk the once big Liberal tent into a pup tent." Where there was once room in the party for a wide range of views on every issue, including moral issues, "he's shifted the Liberal Party way over to the left wing."