The letter to the editor below was sent by Action Life to the Ottawa Citizen in response to an opinion piece on the Canada Summer Jobs program. The piece was published on January 19th under the title Pro: Grant program does respect rights. http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/gilbert-student-jobs-grant-program-respects-charter-rights.
Our letter to the Ottawa Citizen:
As reported in a 2008 Epoch Times article, Daphne Gilbert, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa, commenting on the 1988 Supreme Court decision in Morgentaler, said “The Morgentaler decision didn’t say a woman has a constitutional right to abortion, it didn’t go that far… pro-choice is not a legal question, it is a social/cultural issue.” In her January 19th opinion piece, Ms. Gilbert advances that since the Morgentaler decision, the Court’s interpretation of section 7 of the Charter has “progressed to the point that it is clear women do have charter rights to reproductive control”. No, the Morgentaler decision still stands and nothing has occurred in the last thirty years that has altered the Court’s judgement and made abortion a Charter right.
In striking down the 1969 law, the Supreme Court of Canada did not establish a Charter right to abortion. The law was struck down for procedural inequities related to the system of hospital abortion committees which the Court found in violation of a woman’s security of the person under section 7 of the Charter. Former Justice of the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island, Gerard Mitchell, wrote of the Morgentaler decision in a letter to the Charlottetown newspaper the Guardian in 2014: “None of the seven judges held that there was a constitutional right to abortion on demand. All of the judges acknowledged the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the unborn.”
Osgoode Hall Law Professor Shelley A. M. Gavigan explained in a 1992 essay that “The Supreme Court’s decision, profound as it was, did not create a right to abortion for Canadian women, nor did it offer any resolution of the abortion issue.” The Court left it to Parliament to come up with a new law. A legal vacuum exists today since Parliament has yet to come up with legislation. Contrary to Ms. Gilbert’s assertion that the attestation for the Summer Jobs program is misunderstood by religious groups, they understand only too well that it violates their right to freedom of conscience and religion. The federal government’s attestation which requires support of abortion among other things contravenes actual Charter rights. Equally, pro-life groups, non-profits organizations or businesses have a right to freedom of expression, association and conscience as do all Canadians. This attestation does not advance equality rights but actually discriminates against some Canadians because of their beliefs.