Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doubled down Wednesday in Hamilton on his defence of reproductive choice in Canada at the second stop on his town hall tour across the country, saying groups seeking to remove the right of Canadian women to access abortion are out of sync with society.
The comment comes weeks after Global News reported the government will require all employers that apply for federal funding to hire students through the Canada Summer Jobs program sign an attestation stating that their organizational mandate and the role they want to hire youth for respects the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the right to abortion, as established by the Supreme Court of Canada.
He said that while all individuals in a free society can hold any views they like on the matter of abortion, actively working to strip other Canadians of their rights is not okay.
“Defending rights and freedoms is at the core of who I am and is the core of what Canada is,” he said. “At the same time, we need to know there is a difference between freedom of expression and acting on those freedoms.”
The Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that the law on the books at the time restricting access to abortion violated Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Canada currently has no law governing how abortion services are provided across the country.
Requiring that groups applying for federal summer jobs funding attest that they respect all rights — including reproductive rights — has caused the Conservative Party and anti-abortion groups to accuse the government of stiffing free speech.
However, Trudeau told the audience members Wednesday that allowing individuals to try and strip established rights from other Canadians goes against what both the country and his government stand for. He said any organization whose explicit purpose calls for removing the right to abortion “is not in line with where we are as a government and, quite frankly, where we are at as a society.”
“Women have fought for generations for the right to control their own bodies, to be able to choose for themselves what to do with their bodies,” Trudeau said. “When those beliefs lead to actions aimed to restrict a women’s right on what to do with her body, that’s where we draw the line.”
Multiple MPs, including the Conservative status of women critic Rachael Harder and Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, have used the program in the past to allocate thousands of dollars in federal funds to anti-abortion groups that hire students to advocate against abortion.