Globe Editorial: First Take

MPs’ request to have RCMP investigate abortions is way off base

The Globe and Mail

Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott is shown in the House of Commons on Tuesday, May 9, 2006. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says while some of his Conservative MPs may not agree, abortion is legal in Canada. (CP)

A letter from three Conservative MPs who are opposed to abortion asking the RCMP to investigate what they call “the killing of Canadian children” is an unwelcome move. The abortion debate is not something Canadians have shown an interest in reopening. And the letter itself is troubling because it betrays a misunderstanding of the law, and of the dangers of politicians turning to the Mounties to investigate cases based on a personal political agenda.

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The three backbench MPs, led by Maurice Vellacott of Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, want the RCMP to open homicide investigations into cases of mid- and late-term abortions that they say may have resulted in live births. They claim that Statistics Canada listed 491 such births between 2000 and 2009. They say in their letter that, under the Criminal Code, “a child is considered a human being and a person after proceeding fully from the mother’s womb.” They state categorically that anyone involved in the extremely rare case of an abortion that involves a live fetus “is guilty of homicide,” and they “formally request” RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to pursue investigations into the 491 cases.

Mr. Vellacott and his two allies have failed to take into account that, in Canada, abortion is not covered by the Criminal Code. The Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that using the threat of criminal sanction to force a woman to carry a child to term is a violation of her constitutional right to security of the person. Parliament has never brought in legislation to fill the gap created by that ruling. If that ever changes, it will be up to Parliament to do it, not to the police. The Mounties don’t exist to do what the government has been unable, or afraid, to do legislatively

Finally, backbench MPs should not be using their position to formally request RCMP investigations into the lives of Canadians whose actions they are on the record as being morally opposed to. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has distanced himself from his three MPs and their letter. One hopes Commissioner Paulson will be as wise.