Thursday marked the 40th anniversary of the passage through Parliament of the most calamitous legislation in Canadian history -- an omnibus set of amendments to the Criminal Code introduced by former prime minister Pierre Trudeau that included easier divorce proceedings as well as legalized abortion and the sale of contraceptives.
With rare exceptions prior to 1969, divorce could only be obtained on the proven grounds of adultery. By expanding those grounds to include marital breakdown, Trudeau's omnibus bill cleared the way for a sharp increase in divorces. By 1986, the year before Parliament introduced absolutely no-fault divorce, the national divorce rate was more than 10 times higher than 50 years earlier.
During this period, there has been a sharp rise in the number of lone-parent families in Canada, most of them headed by women. And according to Statistics Canada, the low-income rate for female lone-parent families is four times greater than the average for all families.
Children, of course, are the primary victims of divorce. Study after study confirms that youngsters who grow up without the care and guidance of their natural father are far more likely to live in poverty, suffer from sexual abuse, obtain poor grades in school, end up in trouble with the law and eventually get divorced.
How long will it take for most Canadians to grasp the ruinous consequences of the experiment with no-fault divorce initiated by Trudeau? When will Parliament reform the divorce act to penalize a cruel and selfish parent who for no good reason, breaks up the family home?
In 1969, a few hardy souls warned that legalizing the sale of contraceptives would contribute to a disastrous increase in fornication, adultery and abortion as well as an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases and other untold miseries for sexually promiscuous people.
Today, of course, any attempt to reinstate constrictions on the sale of contraceptives is out of the question. Canadians are fated to suffer the consequences of this aspect of Trudeau's ill-considered reforms for generations to come.
What, though, about the legalization of abortion? Prior to Trudeau's bill, the deliberate procurement of abortion was a criminal offence in Canadian law punishable by up to life imprisonment.
Supporters of legalized abortion in 1969 claimed that as many as 300,000 Canadian women were annually forced to undergo illegal abortions, most of them in dangerous backroom conditions. That figure was preposterous. And so was the assurance by Trudeau's justice minister, John Turner, during debate on the omnibus bill that its provision for legalizing abortion does not promote abortion.
According to Statistics Canada, there were 11,200 abortions in Canada in 1970, the year Trudeau's bill came into effect. By 1987, that figure had risen to 67,343.
In the 1988 Morgentaler ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada abolished even the few remaining restrictions on abortion in the Criminal Code. And within four years of this calamitous exercise in judicial activism, the annual death toll from induced abortion exceeded 100,000. Altogether, some 3.5 million babies have been deliberately killed by abortion in Canada since 1969.
Now, many of the people who applauded the legalization of abortion in 1969 are beginning to worry about the aging of the Canadian population. No conceivable amount of immigration can reverse this trend. Statistics Canada projects that by 2026, one Canadian in five will be aged 65 or over, up from fewer than one in 10 in 1981.
Who will pay for the crushing costs of health care in 2026? Who will finance soaring expenditures for unfunded Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security liabilities in the next 20 to 30 years?
Trudeau's misconceived reforms to the Criminal Code have truly had a calamitous impact. There is no more urgent priority for Parliament than to restore some prudent restraints on abortion, divorce and family breakdown. Failure to do so will foster social chaos and undermine the security of Canada as a parliamentary democracy with a recognizable heritage of freedom under law.