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Tweedledum and Tweedledee

My mom often used the expression - "tweedledum and tweedledee". My dad explained that it meant - "six of one, half a dozen of the other." For example, two matters, persons, or groups can be very much alike, as in Uncle George says, he's not voting in this election because the candidates are tweedledum and tweedledee.

I later discovered that these terms were actually invented by John Byrom, who in 1725 made fun of two quarrelling composers, Handel and Bononcini, and said there was little difference between their music, since one went "tweedledum" and the other "tweedledee." The term gained further currency when Lewis Carroll used it for two fat little men in Through the Looking-Glass (1872).

Reflecting on our federal political leadership, I thought that the terms applied rather well to Prime Minister Harper and leader of the opposition, Thomas Mulcair.

The former has repeatedly said that he doesn't support re-opening the abortion debate. The latter says that his MPs flatly oppose reopening the abortion debate and proceeds to clarify by adding - "No NDP MP will ever vote against a woman's right to choose."

Now we have a new player, I call "tweedledum-dumb", our want-a-be Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau with his own brand of bilingualism. He pledges open nomination races and at the same time: "I have made it clear that future candidates need to be completely understanding that they will be expected to vote pro-choice on any bills." Apparently, logic isn't his strong suit.

All of our current political leaders need to study a bit more history, medicine, law and philosophy.

Canadians do not possess a constitutional right to abortion.

On January 28th 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada , in the Regina v. Morgentaler decision, struck down the existing abortion law. They did not establish a constitutional right to abortion.

The 5-2 Supreme Court decision is split into no fewer than four separate judgments. No member of the Court intended theirs to be the last word on the subject. It was only the law in front of them at the time that they found unconstitutional - Section 251 of the Criminal Code.

Regrettably, our Members of Parliament are content to play a political game with life refusing to even discuss the question. Furthermore, their cowardice and silence is inconsistent with scientific facts and places them in compliance with the destruction of thousands of human lives.

Clearly, the legalistic view of the pre-born child as an extension of the mother, which some people favouring abortion still cling to, has proven to be outdated. Differences between pre-born babies and other people are not in species (human or not) but in size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependancy.

In addition, the Canadian Constitution and our history, do not include a negative secularist bias against religious pluralism and the guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion as many of our politicians and media pundits assume. On the contrary, both seek to protect religious freedom by equally encouraging, promoting and enforcing religious pluralism. Both envision not merely diversity of religion or faiths but the active engagement, not mere tolerance, of such diversity, and not in isolation, but in relationship to one another.

Specifically, it is important to remember and apply the interpretation given to Section 2(a) of the Charter: Freedom of Conscience and Religion by the Supreme Court of Canada in the R. V. Big M Drug Mart Ltd (1985) case. The Justices addressed what is embodied in freedom of religion:

"A truly free society is one which can accommodate a wide variety of beliefs, diversity of tastes and pursuits, customs and codes of conduct ...The essence of the concept of freedom of religion is the right to entertain such religious beliefs as person chooses, the right to declare beliefs openly, and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest religious beliefs by worship and practice and dissemination (para.94).

Freedom can primarily be characterized by the absence of coercion or constraint (para.95).

... The Charter safeguards religious minorities from the threat of 'the tyranny of the majority.'" (Para.96)"

Why are Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau not listening? Why are we letting them get away with it?

✠ F. B. Henry
Bishop of Calgary