(CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

Editorial: Shame on MPs for walking out on nominee

By 
  • October 6, 2017
Status of Women Canada exists to promote women’s equality and “full participation” of women in the economic, social and democratic life of Canada. Among its many worthy objectives is to encourage women to become community and political leaders, active players in shaping a just society.

Compare that mandate to what happened Sept. 26 when MPs from the Liberal and NDP parties aligned to publicly shun a 30-year-old woman who was properly appointed as the chair of the House of Commons standing committee on the Status of Women. They walked out en masse minutes into Rachael Harder’s first meeting for the sole reason that, in the past, she has exercised her Parliamentary right to vote in support of pro-life motions.

It was an act of public shaming, of bullying, to be expected perhaps in a schoolyard but quite undignified among elected members. A committee that, above all else, should exemplify fairness, accommodation and tolerance, instead opted to belittle and stigmatize a woman because of a sincerely held belief of conscience.

The explanation given by Pam Damoff, who led the shunners, was that the chair of the committee “should be someone who is representative of the Supreme Court decision that was made in 1988.” If the MP is going to cite Supreme Court decisions, she should perhaps first read them. Harder, not Damoff, very much reflects the spirit of the infamous 1988 Morgen-taler ruling. None of the justices back then advocated for abortion on demand. Although they ruled aspects of the law at the time were unconstitutional, they agreed unanimously that the State has a legitimate right to legislate limits on abortion.

But Damoff is not stumbling alone in the dark. The Prime Minister claims to be an advocate of equality for women but apparently not equality among women. He defended the public shaming because, he said, the committee chair should be able to “unequivocally” defend women’s rights.

“That’s sort of the point of the status of women committee,” he said.

Actually, the point of the committee is to defend women’s rights and advance women’s causes across a broad spectrum, not to be a tunnel-visioned advocate of abortion. The committee should respect and represent the views of all women, and it should be a pit bull when a women’s Charter rights of freedom of conscience, belief, opinion and expression are under attack. It should never become the attacker.

It should also never fail to encourage young women of all political stripes and beliefs to become engaged in the democratic process. In that regard, the committee should be ashamed of how it demeaned Harder, an accomplished female millennial.

She should be held up as a role model for other intelligent, young women, not cruelly branded with a scarlet letter and shunned in an emptying room.

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