Green candidates say they don’t remember past anti-abortion comments

A candidate for the Green Party has said he “doesn’t remember” expressing anti-abortion views on at least two Campaign Life Coalition questionnaires, or asking would-be Conservative party voters to consider supporting him because of his abortion views in a Facebook post from 2015.

When asked about a post that laments the ready access some women have to abortion, another candidate for the party said she doesn’t recall making those statements on social media.

A spokesperson for the party insists both candidates are avowedly pro-choice and will run for the party in the upcoming federal election campaign.

The statements from these Green candidates come a day after the party was put on the defensive when leader Elizabeth May told CBC’s Power & Politics that she wouldn’t forbid a Green MP from advancing legislation to curb access to abortion services. May said that, while she is personally pro-choice, she doesn’t have the power to whip the votes of Green MPs in the House of Commons.

A party spokesperson later sought to clarify her remarks, saying that all candidates for the party must “wholeheartedly agree that the abortion debate is closed in Canada … any who disagree are not allowed to run.” The spokesperson said party’s federal council has disqualified candidates over anti-abortion views.

A social media post issued by the party Monday also said all candidates “must endorse the Green Party’s policy of defending and expanding the right of women, trans and non-binary people to access an abortion.”

The party is running candidate Mark Vercouteren in the southwestern Ontario riding of Chatham-Kent—Leamington.

Vercouteren told the Campaign Life Coalition, a lobby group that promotes socially conservative values, that if he’s elected he’ll support measures to stop funding abortions with taxpayers’ money. He filled out the questionnaire ahead of both the 2014 and 2018 Ontario provincial campaigns.

Vercouteren answered “no” when asked if there are “any circumstances under which you believe a woman should have access to abortion.” He also said he would support legislation to protect the rights of health care workers who “refuse to participate in procedures which are in violation of their religious or conscientious beliefs.”

He also answered in the affirmative when asked if he thought euthanasia was the “deliberate killing of a person by action or omission.”

In a 2015 Facebook post, Vercouteren told anti-abortion Conservative voters to think twice about voting for that party because it does “not want to touch it and will leave the law as it is no matter what their position.”

Instead, Vercouteren said, they should consider voting for him. “I personally am pro-life because I could not give more rights to animals and remove rights from potential humans,” he said.

Vercouteren was given an “amber” light rating by the Campaign Life Coalition, which said that while he has expressed anti-abortion views, he also has supported an “anti-family agenda of normalizing the gay lifestyle.”

Rosie Emery, a spokesperson for the Green Party, said Vercouteren is still a candidate.

“Mark does not remember having answered the survey and would never tolerate reopening the abortion debate. He is certainly not pro-life,” she said.

The party is also running Macarena Diab, a candidate in the Quebec City-area riding of Louis-Hébert.

In 2008, Diab wrote a post on a Spanish-language Facebook group: “SI A LA VIDA – No a la ley del aborto” (“YES TO LIFE – No to the abortion law”). In Spanish, she claimed that in countries where abortion has been legalized, “the number of abortions performed became a social custom.”

In another post, Diab quotes the late Roman Catholic nun and missionary Mother Teresa, saying, “The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion because if a mother can kill her own child, what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me? There is nothing between.”

Emery said Diab “does not remember posting on this Facebook group,” adding Diab was just a teenager when the posts were made.

“She has always been strongly pro-choice,” Emery said of Diab.

May’s political opponents pounced Tuesday on the abortion debate unfolding within the Green Party.

Speaking to CBC News while meeting voters in Hamilton, Ont., NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said all New Democratic candidates are pro-choice and support expanding access to the service for all women.

“I think people should know where everyone stands, what their values are. I can make it really clear — I am very much pro-choice. We have to support a woman’s right to choose. All my candidates have to be, there’s no question about it, there’s no debate allowed in my party. As leader, I’ve been very clear where I stand on this position,” he said.

In 2014, Liberal Justin Trudeau barred new members of his caucus from supporting any restrictions on abortion access. Trudeau has said a Liberal government will stand “unequivocally” for women’s rights and the right to choose.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has said a Conservative government led by him would not reopen the debate on abortion — but it remains unclear whether he would allow a Conservative MP to table a private member’s bill on the issue.

Scheer said backbench Conservative MPs are free to follow their consciences but he would “oppose measures to reopen” the abortion debate and is “confident” the caucus “understands that.”

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