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A Bill about Empathy

On Thursday December 6, I spoke in the Manitoba Legislature on Bill 20o The Safe Access to Abortion Services Act.   This bill would allow for buffer zones around any clinic, hospital or health-care facility offering abortion services to Manitoba women and girls, while prohibiting any protesting, demonstrating or picketing within these zones, and strengthens protections for patients and health-care providers against harassment, bullying, intimidation, shame and molestation.
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, this bill comes down to one word: empathy. Do MLAs have empathy with women and girls who are making difficult health-care decisions?
      There are those in Manitoba who have very different points of view with regard to abortions and a variety of other health-care matters. But the fact is that whatever your view on this subject, whatever your views are with respect to abortion or other health matters, that that's not what this bill is about.
      This bill is about one word: empathy. It is about being sensitive to the needs of women who are coming to receive health care and to make and to consult with and to get health care that they need.
      This bill is not about supressing freedom of speech. There are plenty of venues for people to speak out clearly and freely on any subject that they want–in front of the Legislature, for example. 
      The passing of such legislation in British Columbia and in other provinces has clearly shown that British Columbias are not less free because they have this legislation. People in British Columbia still have plenty of venues that they can speak out and say whatever they like.
      You don't see editorials now or recently or for the last number of years talking about the lack of freedom of speech in British Columbia. It is just not the case that this bill is dealing with freedom of speech.
      This bill is about empathy. It is about ending attempts to intimidate and shame our fellow human beings. Such intimidation and shame is not helpful and it's not effective; we know that for many and many different venues.
      This bill is about empathy. It is about whether members of this Chamber have empathy for their fellow Manitobans or do not have empathy for fellow Manitobans.
      The Pallister government wants the freedom for people to intimidate and shame others. This is unfortunate. The Pallister government, in this, as in so many other areas, has shown that it lacks empathy. I think this is very sad. I think this is very unfortunate for Manitobans.
      We see this with respect to many who are disadvantaged and who are vulnerable. Even though the Premier (Mr. Pallister) said in the election that one of his top priorities was poverty and addressing it, we are now two and a half years into this government and there's no poverty plan.
      There is no empathy in this government for people who are vulnerable, people who are disenfranchised– [interjection]–it is true.
      The Pallister government and all MLAs who vote against this bill are demonstrating clearly that they lack empathy for people who are making sensitive and difficult health-care decisions.
      Manitoba Liberals will support this legislation and we thank the MLA for St. 'John' for bringing in forward.
      Merci, miigwech.

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