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Votability Decision on M-408 and Sex-selection Lamentable

The following media release has today been issued by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

March 21, 2013

OTTAWA – “The decision made today to declare Motion M-408 as non-votable by Parliament is lamentable,” explains Faye Sonier, Legal Counsel with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. “The motion calling on Parliament to condemn the practice of sex-selection pregnancy termination was simple, straight-forward and non-confrontational. As a lawyer who follows Parliamentary business, I was quite surprised that the Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business unanimously found that the motion didn’t satisfy the votability criteria for private members’ bills.”

On September 27, 2012, Member of Parliament Mark Warawa introduced Motion M-408. The motion reads simply, "That the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination." Today, the Subcommittee met to determine whether the Motion was votable, which would have permitted it to proceed for debate in the House of Commons.

“The criteria for votability is quite simple,” explains Don Hutchinson, EFC Vice-President and General Legal Counsel. “House motions must address federal jurisdiction, they cannot clearly violate constitutional documents, they cannot concern questions that are ‘substantially the same as ones already voted on by the House of Commons in the current Parliamentary session’ and they must not concern issues already on the Order Paper or Notice Paper as items of government business. In our estimation and according to our research, Motion M-408 clearly and easily met these requirements.”

“Committee members noted that the subject matter has already been dealt with in this session of Parliament in Motion M-312. M-312 proposed a committee to study the legal definition of ‘human being’ in Canada’s Criminal Code, an unrelated matter potentially connected to M-408 only by the consideration of human life before birth. Curiously, the same committee did not conclude Randall Garrison’s proposal to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act through private members’ Bill C-279 was non-votable when Brian Storseth already had private members’ Bill C-304 before Parliament proposing an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act. Quite simply, those two bills were on different subject matter as were the two motions cited by the committee,” continues Hutchinson.

“The other objection noted was that ultrasounds are medical treatment and therefore under provincial jurisdiction,” says Hutchinson. “Non-binding motions of the House have historically covered a wide range because they are not a legislative initiative but speak to a concern of national proportion. In the past, that has included such things as a declaration to end child poverty in Canada.  Recently, private members’ Bill C-300 was passed to implement a national suicide prevention strategy, even though suicide is no longer a criminal matter under the Criminal Code; legislation to deal with a national crisis. Canada is similarly facing a nation-wide crisis with girls being aborted in hopes that a future pregnancy will result in a boy being conceived. This motion is entirely appropriate in that context.”

“This was a non-binding motion, which simply asked that the House condemn a deplorable practice – that of sex-selection abortion,” explains Sonier. “Representatives from all political parties have condemned gendercide as well as 92% of Canadians, in a recent poll. And let’s be clear – this motion could not have, in anyway, criminalized the act itself. The motion offered Parliament the opportunity to collectively condemn a deplorable practice that several Parliamentary leaders have already spoken out against.”

“If any decision warrants review in the process available within Parliamentary procedure on private members’ business, this is one such decision. Otherwise, this will be a lost opportunity to have a debate and a national discussion on a tragic practice that’s taking place in our country,” explains Hutchinson. “We hope, going forward, that we can have a democratic and respectful dialogue on this non-partisan issue. We pray for civility and we urge Parliamentarians to address critical issues of the day, such as gender discrimination. It is to address issues such as these that Parliament exists.”

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