Tory MPs Concerned About Liberal Plan to Axe Charitable Status of Pro-Life Pregnancy Centres

By Lee Harding
Lee Harding
Lee Harding
Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.
December 2, 2021 Updated: December 8, 2021

Some Conservative MPs and others are voicing their opposition to the government’s plan to eliminate charitable status for pro-life pregnancy centres, with some expressing concern that other organizations could be affected when the policy is implemented.

“They’re falsely claiming that these pregnancy centres are actively working to spread misinformation about abortion and putting health and safety of young people and vulnerable women at risk. That’s their argument when it’s antithetical to the reality, the truth of the whole situation,” Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall told The Epoch Times.

During the recent federal election campaign, the Liberals made a pledge to “No longer provide charity status to anti-abortion organizations (for example, Crisis Pregnancy Centres) that provide dishonest counseling to women about their rights and about the options available to them at all stages of the pregnancy.”

Wagantall joined fellow Tory MPs Leslyn Lewis and Arnold Viersen at a Nov. 24 rally on Parliament Hill, organized by the grassroots pro-life organization Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), to oppose the Liberals’ plan.

Speaking of her experience of having visited a pregnancy centre, Lewis said at the rally that there is a “misconception about what they do.”

“I witnessed even young men being trained on how to be good fathers. I witnessed parents and families learning about nutrition, good nutritional values, how to do homework with their children, how to make sure that their children have a balanced life that incorporates activities and health and wellness,” Lewis said, according to Life Site News.

“There’s so much that is done at these pregnancy care centres.”

The Epoch Times contacted the Prime Minister’s Office and the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office for comment but didn’t hear back by press time.

Centres ‘Very Much Appreciated’

CLC estimates that there are 150 pregnancy care centres across Canada. Pregnancy Care Canada, an umbrella organization for 81 such centres, says the locations have served thousands over the past 23 years:

  • 158,883 people accessed help at affiliated centres;
  • 182,998 client visits were made for material supplies, such as diapers, formula, and clothes;
  • 18,036 clients received prenatal education;
  • 31,733 clients took parenting programs;
  • 9,810 women requested and received support after their abortion; and
  • tens of thousands helped online and via phone calls and text messages.

“They’re shutting down a service to women that clearly women want,” Wagantall said of the Liberal’s plan.

“So they’re pre-determining what values should be for people and shutting down opportunities that, obviously, are very much appreciated and there is a need for. … These women who come for post-abortion support are getting it from the pregnancy counselling centres—they aren’t getting it from the abortion centres.”

The federal government has not yet indicated how it will fulfill the campaign promise.

Viersen says that based on the Liberals’ past policies, he’s worried they’ll proceed with the pledge.

“We can look to the Canada Summer Jobs fiasco and look at how they did that, and I’m quite concerned that they’ll do a similar thing with this,” he said in an interview.

In 2018, the federal government required applicants for the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program to sign an attestation declaring that they “respect individual human rights in Canada”—including “reproductive rights,” a term that encompasses abortion—as a condition of receiving grants.

“They’ll probably say you have to check this box in order to continue on with your charitable status, and folks will be consciously opposed to checking that box and therefore they won’t get their charitable status renewed,” Viersen said.

‘Compelled Speech’

Wagantall and Viersen both expressed concern that the net may be cast far wider than pregnancy centres to include other pro-life institutions, including churches and summer camps.

“During the election, I had a number of pastors just reaching out to me, basically saying, ‘If they can go after pregnancy care centres, they can come after us,’” Viersen said.

Marty Moore, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, litigated against the federal government regarding the attestation clause of the CSJ program, but by 2019 the attestation had been dropped.

He later won a case against the federal government on behalf of Mill Stream Bible Camp. Bureaucrats had denied a CSJ grant to the charity, which operates near Scarborough, Ont., because of its religious beliefs and its requirement for camp counsellors to adhere to Christian beliefs and conduct.

“Compelled speech is one of the most invasive violations of the freedom of expression can be contemplated,” Moore told The Epoch Times.

“One can think of medieval-style trials where the accused are forced to recant and say things, etc. You see that the idea of compelled speech is still viewed by many judges as incredibly contrary to law.”

On Oct. 22, a federal court ruled against a charter challenge of the 2018 attestation clause issued by Toronto Right to Life. The organization is appealing the decision, which found that it is “reasonable” for Ottawa to require CSJ applicants to express support for abortion rights in order to get funding.

Moore called the decision an “anomaly” that may “breathe some new life into the attestation concept,” but not one he supports.

“When the Criminal Code or the tax code becomes a weapon in the hands of a political party against their political foes, trust in the rule of law and in the institutions of government is devastated,” he said.

“That is an incredibly negative thing for any society, and it’s directly contrary to the principles of the charter.”

Lee Harding
Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.