Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff has confirmed he will be headlining an anti-abortion event titled “Gen Z: Challenging Abortion in Politics” for a student-run university group that has compared abortion to the Holocaust.
“I don’t think anyone is surprised to know that I am pro-life. I have always been very clear where I stand when it comes to protecting the right to life,” said Oosterhoff in a statement to the Niagara Falls Review.
Wednesday’s 7 p.m. online event is being hosted by University of Ottawa Students for Life, Carleton Pro-life and University of Waterloo Students for Life, and is being held in collaboration with National Campus Life Network.
Last month, the National Campus Life Network posted an item on its Twitter feed about U.S. President Joe Biden’s pro-choice policy, writing, “Making abortions an ‘early priority’ is the same as Hitler who made it an early priority to kill the Jews.”
At Monday’s regular press briefing, a visibly displeased Premier Doug Ford said he would be speaking to Oosterhoff Monday night after being asked about the MPP’s activities.
Referring to the National Campus Life Network, Ford said he believes “everyone has the right to believe what they want,” but abortion should not be compared to the Holocaust.
“That’s just wrong,” he said. “Nothing should be compared to the Holocaust. That’s unique. But I’ll be speaking to Sam tonight.”
Oosterhoff, who is parliamentary assistant to Education Minister Stephen Lecce, has caused previous headaches for the premier.
Last October, Ford had to come to Oosterhoff’s defence when the young MPP posted photos to social media that showed him in a group of about 40 people pressed close together at a banquet hall without masks on, breaking COVID-19 rules about gatherings and social distancing.
At the time, Ford said he had “100 per cent confidence” in Oosterhoff
“He came out and apologized. Hey, guys, everyone makes mistakes,” Ford then said. “I’m a strong believer — you make a mistake, you go out and apologize and say it’s not going to happen again. I accept that.”
In 2019, after Oosterhoff spoke to an anti-abortion rally outside of Queen’s Park, Ford had to release a statement saying his government would not reopen the abortion debate.
Ontario Opposition leader Andrea Horwarth is calling for Oosterhoff’s resignation.
“Students face an unprecedented challenge and need a parliamentary assistant to focus on them,” said the head of the NDP. “Instead, Sam Oosterhoff would rather support a group insulting the memory of millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust and attack women’s right to choose. He needs to step down.”
St Catharines regional Coun. Laura Ip said the abortion debate has no place in politics.
“Oosterhoff has publicly stated that he would work to make abortion ‘unthinkable’ in our lifetime,” said Ip. “The abortion debate has no place in politics. Abortion is health care.”
While the abortion debate is a national issue, provincial implications often get overlooked, Ip said.
“This is a federal government issue. However, the province can limit access. They can limit the accessibility of clinics,” she said. “They could make it so there is limited access to clinics. That’s the issue, and that’s why Sam’s participation is problematic.
“The other issue is that he is the parliamentary assistant to the minister of education. If he really doesn’t want abortion to be a thing that people have to access, he could make significant strides in ensuring that sex education is as fulsome as it should be,” Ip added.
Ip said Oosterhoff is in a unique position where he could reduce the abortion rate.
“He could eliminate abstinence education, he could make resources available in schools as well ensuring our children have appropriate and accurate sex education,” said Ip.
Niagara’s lone female MPP, Jennie Stevens, also criticized Oosterhoff’s participation in the event.
“When I stood in the legislature like all women to celebrate International Women’s Day last week, we were choosing to challenge stigmatization and raise awareness against bias,” said Stevens.
“COVID-19 has pushed the problems women face further underground. Making it worse is one of the most out-of-touch actions someone can do right now,” the MPP for St. Catharines added.
Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review