In this interview, we speak with Mike Schouten, Campaign Director of WeNeedaLaw.ca. Mike lives in the Surrey, B.C. with his wife of 16 years and is the father of six children ages 1-15.
What is the WeNeedaLAW.ca campaign?
It is a national campaign with a mission to build a groundswell of support for federal legislation that restricts abortion to the greatest extent possible.
How did the WeNeedaLAW.ca campaign begin?
This campaign was initiated because of a desperate need for the political arm of the pro-life movement to come up with a different strategy. As you know, Canada has been void of legal protection for the unborn for nearly twenty-five years. In that time period there have been literally millions of Canadians involved, both personally and with various organizations in the struggle to change hearts. What was lacking was a specific strategy on the political level to change laws in our country. Politics is the art of the possible and involves making decisions which account for Canada’s pluralistic democracy where citizens have vastly divergent worldviews. In the lead up to the launch of this campaign it was obvious that a majority of Canadians support restrictions to abortion. The question that needs to be asked then is why aren’t pro-lifers working to have this strong public opinion reflected in public policy? This campaign is an answer to that question.
Do you think that the WeNeedaLAW.ca campaign had a significant role to play in Motion 312?
MP Stephen Woodworth introduced his motion prior to the launch of WeNeedaLAW.ca and it was exactly what we needed to gain credibility and traction with Canadians. Our goal is legal protection for pre-born children with the understanding that Parliamentarians have an important role in making this happen. Therefore we got behind Motion 312 by featuring it prominently on our website, pushing petitions in favour of it, and encouraging Canadians to communicate with their MP’s about it. That said, there were numerous other groups across Canada all helping to build support for Motion 312 with the result being that over half the Conservative caucus (including 10 cabinet ministers), and four Liberal members voting in favour. We know that in order to change the status quo it’s going to be a coordinated grassroots effort and Motion 312 gave us the opportunity to cultivate that. Our analytics show that we were very successful in mobilizing Canadians and we look forward to doing so for Motion 408 (Condemn Sex-Selective Abortions) from Conservative MP, Mark Warawa.
How do you feel about it now that it is all over?
I’ve never felt more optimistic about achieving legal protection for children in the womb. For the past nine months Canadians and Parliamentarians have engaged in conversation surrounding the status of pre-born girls and boys. This issue needs to be in the national consciousness and Motion 312 certainly accomplished that. I think we’ve learned as a country that we can discuss difficult and sensitive issues; that they need to be talked about in order to move forward. Sir Winston Churchill once said, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Canadian pro-lifers can hold their heads high and move forward knowing that change will come. It may not be as fast as some would like, but it surely is coming.
Where did your pro-life involvement start?
I became actively involved in the early 2000’s when a group of us had opportunity to build support for a pro-life person seeking nomination for candidacy in the Conservative Party of Canada. That’s also where I found my love for politics. Throughout the following 8 years, it became clear that the Conservative Party was intent on not re-opening the abortion debate. I eventually left and actually started an Electoral District Association in my riding of South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale for the Christian Heritage Party of Canada. I ran as a candidate for them in the 2011 federal election and had a blast. Although unsuccessful at the ballot box, I enjoyed the campaign as well as advocating for the issues. That said, there were many parts of their platform that distracted me from being able to focus solely on abortion. Providentially, in late 2011 I was approached by ARPA (Association for Reformed Political Action) Canada with a proposal that combined my love for politics and heart for pre-born children. It was one of those doors you just have to go through and here I am today.
What sort of growth have you seen in WeNeedaLaw.ca?
The campaign has far exceeded our expectations. Clearly the pro-life movement was looking for leadership on the political front and people are gravitating to our message by the thousands. We pushed the petitions hard which resulted in nearly 250 petitions representing 19,000 people submitted to the House of Commons; our SimpleMail technology on our website has been used to send over 25,000 emails to Ottawa; and, traffic on our site is increasing daily. I remind myself from time to time that it has only been six months since we began the campaign and two of those were in the summer. The high level endorsements from groups like Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, and Priests for Life Canada along with numerous individual endorsements including Archbishop J. Michael Miller of the Vancouver Archdiocese have established instant credibility and it’s great to see Canadians coming on board.
With the introduction of MP Warawa’s motion we will be building support for that via SimpleMail and petition. And, we will continue to find ways to get our message into the national media. We also just launched a ‘Marketing Products’ page and will be adding items to it on a regular basis. Like I said earlier, this is grassroots stuff so we need to provide people with the means to spread the message. Social media has helped with that and we’ll continue to have a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter. I’m also involved directly with politicians and hope to build a respectful relationship with them as they play an integral role in this cause as well.
What can the public do to help the cause?
The first thing we ask people to do is go to WeNeedaLAW.ca and add their email address to the growing number of Canadians who want a law. This way we can send you our Action Alerts and updates. Further to that we invite everyone to make use of the tools we’ve provided on our website. They are all listed under the “Take Action” tab and are quick and easy to use. And, the one thing everyone can do is spread the word! Our talking points are simply this: 1) Canada is the only democracy with no laws restricting abortion; 2) The Supreme Court of Canada instructed Parliament to enact new legislation; and 3) A majority of Canadians want abortion to be restricted. These points need to be used at every possible opportunity as we work towards taking that first step in abolishing abortion.