Trudeau urges Varadkar to see abortion as a ‘fundamental right’

Taoiseach tells Canadian PM there is ‘always more to do’ on social change


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been urged by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau to treat the issue of abortion as a fundamental right for women.

Mr Varadkar and Mr Trudeau discussed the subject in a bilateral meeting in Montreal on Sunday, along with Brexit, the EU-Canada trade deal CETA, the healthcare systems of Ireland and Canada, and how international problems should be solved though multilateralism and co-operation.

They also discussed the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which United States president Donald Trump is seeking to renegotiate.

In Canada, abortion is legal at all stages during pregnancy and some Irish pro-choice campaigners have used the country as an example of how they would like to reform Ireland’s abortion regime.

Speaking at a press conference following the meeting with Mr Trudeau, Mr Varadkar said: “We also discussed the issue of abortion, which I know is an important issue for a lot of campaigners for women’s rights.

“I updated the prime minister on our plans to have a referendum on that in Ireland next year to give the people of Ireland the opportunity to remove our constitutional ban on abortion should they wish to do so. The intention is to have that referendum next year, ideally in the first half of year if that can be done.”

‘Fundamental’ right

Mr Trudeau was asked if he gave Mr Varadkar any advice on how to approach the issue ahead of the referendum and he said he had encouraged the Taoiseach to look at it as a “fundamental” right.

“On the issue of reproductive rights, I shared our perspective that reproductive rights for women are integral to women’s rights in general, and women’s rights are human rights. And I encouraged him to look at it as a question of fundamental rights for women and we had a good discussion on that.”

Mr Varadkar and his partner, Matthew Barrett, also marched in the Montreal pride parade with Mr Trudeau, who invited the Taoiseach to take part in Sunday’s event.

In advance of the pride march, Mr Varadkar told a gathering that Ireland had seen significant social change in recent years. But he added that there was “always more to do”, such as standing up to homophobic bullying and on the issue of sexual health.

The Taoiseach presented Mr Trudeau, a keen Star Wars fan, with a framed picture of Skellig Michael, where the latest instalments of the series have been shot.

Mr Trudeau presented Mr Varadkar with a pair of maple leaf cufflinks

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Varadkar and Mr Trudeau inspected an honour guard of troops at the Côte-des-Neiges armoury in Montreal.

Mr Varadkar was given a 19-gun artillery salute and inspected two field regiments of the Royal Canadian Hussars: the armoured reconnaissance regiment and the artillery regiment.

A second World War 25-pounder artillery gun donated from the Irish Defence Forces to their Canadian counterparts was also on display.

The gun was used by the Canadian army in Sicily during the second World War and was one of a number then sold to the Dutch army, who in turn sold five on to the Defence Forces in the 1970s.

Ireland has since donated three of the guns to the Canadian Royal Regiment, which are now located in Montreal; on Juno beach, one of the sites of the 1944 D-Day landings; and in Holland.