“Motion 408 to Protect Girls is definitely in order,” says Langley MP Mark Warawa.
He has been working on this motion, which asks the House of Commons to condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination,
for much of the past year and has met with numerous groups to explain it. It was shelved on Thursday morning by the Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business, whose three members (one each from the Conservative, Liberal and NDP parties) decided that the motion was “not-voteable.”
Warawa announced his intention to appeal this decision “as far as necessary,” which could include an unprecedented secret ballot in the House of Commons.
While Warawa’s bill has been criticized as being an attempt to reopen the abortion debate, he says that is not his intention at all. He was inspired to look into the matter by a CBC documentary and his motion followed up on statements made in the House of Commons last June 13, hen representatives of all parties condemned the practice of aborting female fetuses due to gender.
He wants the House of Commons to make its feelings known, through a formal motion, about sex selection. There is substantial evidence that many people choose to abort female fetuses simply because of the gender, both in Canada and elsewhere.
“It is not legislative change,” he said in an interview from Ottawa Thutsday afternoon. “It is just a statement by the House.”
He noted the House had earlier passed a statement he had asked for in a motion, to condemn the killing and dismemberment of people in Tanzania, who are diagnosed with albinism.
“Motion 408’s call to condemn discrimination against women and girls is definitely in order,” said Warawa, noting that “MPs must defend their right to vote on issues of the day.”
Warawa said it iso important that the House of Commons express its view on sex selection practices, as the United Nations is asking governments to condemn the practice.
According to the rules of the House, there are only four criteria by which a piece of Private Members’ Business may be deemed non-votable. They are:
– Bills and motions must not concern questions that are outside federal jurisdiction.
– Bills and motions must not clearly violate the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
– Bills and motions must not concern questions that are substantially the same as ones already voted on by the House of Commons in the current session of Parliament.
– Bills and motions must not concern questions that are currently on the Order Paper or Notice Paper as items of government business.
An impartial expert from the Library of Parliament repeatedly and emphatically stated M-408 is fully compatible with all four criteria.
Warawa told The Times that he was surprised the subcommittee “ignored the expert from the Library of Parliament.”
Despite the analyst’s expert opinion, the subcommittee mistakenly decided that M-408 should be deemed non-voteable. Members stated that it falls outside the jurisdiction of the federal government and is similar to a motion already voted on in the House.
“My motion is fully in line with the criteria to deem Private Members’ Business votable,” said Warawa. “The idea that Members of Parliament aren’t allowed to express an opinion on any subject is beyond belief.”
The next step is for the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to decide whether to allow the Subcommittee’s report to stand. This meeting is expected to be public and to include verbal and written submissions from Warawa.
The meeting will take place next Wednesday. If that standing committee backs up the subcommittee, Warawa could take the matter to the House of Commons, which could decide by secret ballot on whether his motion is voteable. That has never happened before, he said.