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What’s happening on the Hill: federal legislation to watch in 2024

What came first: the chicken or the egg? While I’m convinced that God started by creating a chicken, the riddle points to two truths: that eggs come from chickens and chickens come from eggs.

We can ask a similar question in a different and more important area of life. What comes first: laws or culture? Again, the answer to this riddle is that both are true. And that’s why a country’s laws are so important. They not only shape our culture, but they are also symptoms of what our culture wants. Laws are not only signposts of where we are going, but conveyor belts pushing us in a particular direction.

So, where are our laws directing us to go? Well, here are some of the potential laws on a variety of issues that the House of Commons and the Senate will continue to study and debate throughout 2024. The bills that ARPA Canada is actively following can be categorized into bills relating to life, pornography and sexual exploitation, family, and human rights and justice.

Note: In Canada, bills need to go through eleven steps to become law. A bill needs to pass first reading, second reading, consideration in committee, report stage, and third reading in the House of Commons (or Senate) first and then go through the same five steps in the Senate (or House of Commons). Finally, the Governor General must give Royal Assent to the legislation. We mention this so you can know how close the bills listed below are to becoming the law of the land.

Life

Euthanizing the mentally ill

The first one is actually not a bill, but an ongoing discussion. The Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying (consisting of both Senators and MPs) is meeting to discuss the expansion of euthanasia to people with mental illness as their sole underlying medical condition. The committee is officially reviewing “the level of preparedness in Canada” to euthanize people with mental illness.

But some MPs and committee witnesses believe Parliament must stop, or at least delay, the expansion of euthanasia to mental illness, which remains scheduled for March 17, 2024. The committee is expected to submit a final report to Parliament, with recommendations, by January 31, 2024.

Euthanizing the mentally incompetent

Another bill, S-248, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), seeks to expand euthanasia still further by permitting advance requests for euthanasia. This means that a person who is worried about losing the capacity to consent to euthanasia may consent weeks, months, or even years in advance. They would just need to pick a random day in the future to be euthanized or declare that they agree to be euthanized if they reach a stated level of decline and have lost the capacity to consent by that point. The bill is awaiting further study at the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

Pornography and Sexual Exploitation

Protecting young eyes

Bill S-210, the Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography Act, prohibits making pornography accessible to young people online and requires pornography companies to verify the age of potential viewers of pornography. Canadians rank 7th in the world for daily porn consumption, and children are exposed to it at increasingly younger ages. This bill is an important step in restricting pornography that is available for children and adolescents. Bill S-210 has successfully passed through the Senate and completed its first hour of debate in the House of Commons on November 23, 2023. It is currently awaiting further debate at second reading in the House of Commons.

Protecting young people

While Bill S-210 prohibits children from viewing pornography, another bill seeks to prohibit a person from making or distributing pornography without first ensuring that those depicted are at least 18 years of age and have consented to their image being depicted.

Online pornography often exploits young people, particularly girls. Bill C-270, the Stopping Internet Sexual Exploitation Act, would make such exploitation punishable by a fine of up to $500,000 or up to two years in prison. Bill C-270 successfully passed through the Senate and, in December, also passed its second reading in the House of Commons, with all Conservative, NDP, and Bloc MPs, as well as several Liberal members, supporting it. It is currently awaiting further study by the National Safety and Public Security Committee.

Better terminology

Bill C-291, introduced by MP Mel Arnold in June 2022, focuses on the issue of child pornography. The bill seeks to replace the term “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse and exploitation material.” While a simple terminology change does not directly combat child pornography, it does shift our society away from viewing child pornography as something that is potentially value-neutral to denouncing it for the abuse and exploitation that it is.

The bill has received widespread support so far, passing unanimously in the House of Commons and passing second reading in the Senate. It is awaiting further study at the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

Human trafficking

Finally, a set of bills focus generally on human trafficking. Bill S-263 and C-308 are identical bills in the Senate and House of Commons which would require the government to maintain, update, and report on the progress of its National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking. The current strategy ends in 2024 but Canada desperately needs to do more – not less – to combat human trafficking.

Both bills have passed first reading in their respective legislatures but have yet to proceed any further.

Family

Spanking bans

Currently, parents in Canada are permitted to use force (e.g. spanking) to correct a child, as long as the force is reasonable under the circumstances. In the past 25 years, at least 14 bills have been introduced as attempts to ban corporal discipline, but none have passed. The government can never replace parents in the life of a child and must not try to do so by legislating how children ought to be raised.

A set of bills – Bill S-251 and Bill C-273 – are the most recent attempts to ban corporal discipline entirely. The Senate bill is currently awaiting further study at the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, while the House of Commons bill completed its first hour of debate at second reading on November 27, 2023.

Human Rights and Justice

Protecting personal political speech

MP Garnett Genuis introduced Bill C-257, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting against discrimination based on political belief), in 2022. An identical bill, bill S-257, was also introduced in the Senate in 2022 by Senator Salma Ataullahjan. Both bills have passed first reading but are awaiting further debate in their respective legislatures. These bills would prohibit discrimination by federally regulated employees against a person because of their political belief or partisan activity, such as, for example, an air traffic controller being fired because he expressed support for a conservative policy on a radio talk show. These bills would help safeguard free participation of all people in public life.

Restorative justice

The Canadian justice system is the focus of Bill S-265, introduced in the Senate in May 2023. Some elements of the bill support pathways for restorative justice as an alternative to incarceration. It would require training for authorities in the justice system regarding restitution and restorative justice programs. The bill also focuses on helping victims of crime navigate the justice system and access information about various services and programs. The Senate has begun to debate the bill at second reading, but it is awaiting further debate.

Conclusion

All of these bills are private members’ bills, meaning that they aren’t given the same priority as government bills to be debated and voted on. And yet, these bills give our representatives in the House of Commons and the Senate the opportunity to focus on critically important issues that the government may be ignoring. Some of these bills would have a negative impact, while others would have a positive impact. Either way, each one has the potential to shape Canadian law. If you are interested in further analysis of any of these bills, please visit ARPACanada.ca for existing analysis or any updates as they develop.

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Pro-life - Abortion, RPTV

Pro-life legislation attempts in Canada

TRANSCRIPT Welcome to Reformed Perspective. I'm Alexander Ellison. Since the Morgentaler Decision in 1988 there has been no abortion law in Canada. The Supreme Court struck down the existing law, stating that it hindered equal access to abortion. However, it's essential to note that the Court's decision did not endorse the absence of federal legislation on abortion, or protection for pre-born children. In fact, it affirmed Parliament's right to create new legislation. In response to the Morgentaler Decision, Brian Mulroney's Conservative government attempted to draft a compromise abortion law in 1990. Despite efforts to balance pro-life and abortion advocate perspectives, Bill C-43, which permitted abortion only if a physician deemed it necessary for a woman's health, passed in the House of Commons, but was later defeated in the Senate. Since then, Member of Parliament Cathay Wagantall has championed change by introducing three private member's bills, each aimed at recognizing and upholding the inherent value of human life. Cathay Wagantall: So, I'm Cathay Wagantall and the Member of Parliament for Yorkton-Melville which is a riding along the Manitoba border, a couple hours north of Regina, our capital. It's 42,000 square kilometers and it's rural and I've been a Member of Parliament for eight years now. The first was – we called it Cassie and Molly's Law – protecting pregnant women and their pre-born children. An individual named Jeff from Windsor had reached out. I think at one point in time he had become friends with folks at ARPA Canada. It was actually Mike Schouten who introduced me to the possibility of doing a bill in relation to what happened to Jeff when he lost his partner Cassie who was 7 months pregnant at the time. They weren't together anymore, but they were still in a very good relationship and had named Molly Molly and were ready to raise her together in their homes about a block apart. And was attacked in her home by someone who knew both of them and it was horrific. What Jeff didn't expect, and was thoroughly blown away, was that there was no recognition of Molly. So Cassie and Molly's Law was to protect pre-born children by basically bringing in a law that gave serious criminal charges for also either injuring or taking the life of a pre-born child. That bill used words like "pre-born child" which is in the Criminal Code but not in this context. And so it, of course, raised the angst of the House, well pretty well every other party, who are very very anti- pro-life legislation, and are very pro-abortion. So that's the direction that they wanted to take this bill, which they did. But I was very fortunate that my colleagues all supported it, except for two and one abstained for various reasons. But that being said, it did wake the House up to the fact that there was someone there who was willing to bring those issues to the floor. When I do trade shows or anything like that, I always have petitions. So I would have one on Firearms – I live in rural Saskatchewan – one on palliative care, and one on life issues. And I realized that although people want abortion to be available, they have this idea that it's already a law in Canada and it's minimal. So when I brought forward the next it was a sex-selection abortion bill, that basically should be illegal. And God is really good; He times things often to assist with what He's put you there to do, and at the same time a poll came out that made it clear that in Canada Canadians are not as divided on this issue, is what it said, as honestly, the media and politicians want you to think they are. What it did is it showed that the majority of Canadians want access to abortion, but as you dug deeper with their questions they totally want a law against sex selective abortion, late term abortion, they want more pregnancy counseling centers, not less, and they want doctors to have to share with their patient exactly what the dangers and and potential complications are of this type of surgery, which is not required in Canada. I mean, I've had my gallbladder out; I spent half a day at the hospital being told a number of things, and that does not happen in this case. So I brought it forward and people would come to sign my petitions and they'd go "I believe in access to abortion, I'm a nurse" or whatever, and I'd say "Oh, so you're okay with sex-selective abortion?" and they said "No." And then I explained the dynamics that are in Canada right now, where besides North Korea we're the only country without any laws. And they would sign my petition. So I realized that although was not going to pass in the House, and this is one of the challenges of this area, is that you have to win in different ways until it becomes something that can happen within our government, and because of the way the House is set up right now, the only political party that you can be a part of, that does not insist that you have to be pro-abortion is the Conservative Party. So you know you're not going to win a vote in the House. But it's important that we always keep these things in front of Canadians. I believe that as legislators we have a responsibility to respond to culture, but we are also responsible for shaping what our values are in Canada and this is part of that. So again, of course, the bill didn't pass and it was very vital if you ever want to go and listen to some of the speeches it's very clear that there's a lot of anger, and and an attempt to make those of us that are pro-life look like terrible people. Yeah, it's the House of Commons. But we made headway because across the country people woke up to realize that in Canada we we don't have these laws. As Wagantall mentions with the current political climate it's challenging to get parties with hard stances on abortion to side with pro-life bills. A policy analyst with ARPA who has worked on these pro-life bills explains why she says they take the incremental approach: Anna Nienhuis: Yeah, so we take an incremental approach just because of the legal reality in Canada. Right now there is no abortion law, so there is no legal protection for any pre-born children, and there's this polarized debate that kind of pits the pro-choice and pro-life side against each other, so we work to find common ground where Canadians can agree so that we can protect some pre-born children while we work for that cultural shift to be able to protect them all. This past spring Wagantall had the opportunity to introduce another private member's bill. Cathay Wagantall: I have to admit that after the third election I said, okay, Lord, I'd be okay if I didn't have another private member's bill, and He said no, nope, that's not how it's going to be, so I did get an opportunity again this last time around – number 62 or 63 – and I brought forward the violence against pregnant women act which is similar to Cassie and Molly's law but far more targeted. It didn't bring in any sentencing or anything like that but what it did is said that if an individual has committed this crime and that crime has been recognized by the courts and this person has been found guilty then the judge must consider that a child was also physically harmed or murdered as an aggravating factor and what that means is they absolutely must take that into account when they're sentencing and there's only about a handful of, circumstances where aggravating factors are required, but this is about violence against pregnant women and violence against women is a priority of this government and something that they want to champion that they're about. And, of course, I was able to indicate that well if that's the case then they definitely should be supporting this bill and again they took the same approach they always do, which is attack in the House of Commons. Then the Prime Minister, and a number of women Liberal Members of Parliament did a Twitter attack on me, and of course they tried to make it sound like this is all about abortion. Again, it's a hidden attempt, all that kind of thing. And it was amazing because, right across the country, people responded to that with their comments with saying here's the actual feedback on this bill – it's two sentences long and it's about women who want to have a child – and they really lit into them for taking advantage of this in the way that they did. Now, again, of course it didn't change the vote in the House unfortunately. They're representing – everyone else in the House of Commons is representing – about 16% of Canadians who are on the extreme perspective of abortion at any time for any reason. So it was exciting. It was exciting. Fortunately my leader was very supportive, as was our whole caucus. So we feel like a number of other issues around , and circumstances where this government is offside with Canadians because they're not out there representing the true perspectives, they have their own ideology and their own purposes, and their own attempts to use an issue as a wedge issue, that they're losing the ground to do that. Having a child is the most impressive thing that a human woman can do, is have those children. And there are many women who would love to have children that can't. And we need to, at the very least, continue to push for the fact that this is something on which women are being misled. They're being misled to think that they can't afford or they can't handle it. We're women; we can handle anything. And sometimes a bad choice is made, but that doesn't mean that you have a bad choice and you follow it up with another bad choice. So it's important to me that we celebrate life, and the beginning of that is we're knit together in our mothers' wombs (Ps. 139:13) and it's a spiritual experience and a privilege to be a mom and to have a child. Thanks for watching this week's episode. Please feel free to like this video and share it with family and friends. For Reformed Perspective, I'm Alexander Ellison in Ottawa....