The first New Zealand Member of Parliament of Filipino descent has made a strong pro-life statement in his maiden speech in the House.

Paulo Garcia, who came into Parliament on the National Party list following the retirement of Nuk Korako, gave his maiden speech on May 29.

Mr Garcia introduced himself as Catholic, Filipino and a New Zealander.

During his speech, he said “whatever laws we might pass in this Chamber, the pro-life voice must no longer be despised and discounted as offensive”.

“Preachers of tolerance and inclusion must no longer seek to silence and condemn those with opinions that make them uncomfortable, but are nevertheless opinions based on another person’s own beliefs and values systems.”

He told his fellow MPs that “there have been people who say my views are intolerant. Why? Because I am pro-life? Because I believe in the sanctity of life? Because I take the great Māori proverb literally and to its logical conclusion? He aha te mea nui o te ao? What is the most important thing in the world? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata — it is the people, it is the people, it is the people”.

“When it comes to human beings,” Mr Garcia added, “we cannot pick and choose which ones are protected and which ones are not, and we cannot say some vulnerable lives must be protected, but others not.”

Also, in the context of the Christchurch mosque killings earlier this year, Mr Garcia called for an awareness of religious intolerance used in debates.

But he added that “it is insulting for some in this Chamber to suggest that the sole motive [for] retrograde policies, such as euthanasia, are religious ones, which is akin to saying that people of faith do not have intellect and shouldn’t also take their place here and contribute to society. We live in a day when we have put our own interests ahead of our children, and this modern society will continue to do so to its own detriment.”

Mr Garcia said that men in New Zealand are particularly at fault in this area.

“Women are often left abandoned, uncertain, and pressured to get rid of unexpected children or to raise them on their own. I salute in absolute praise all single mothers.”

Parenting is the most important job we have, he added.

“As mothers and fathers and, collectively, as a Parliament and as a nation, we need to support our parents, we need to support our families, and we need to support our children, but I highlight that the men of this country need to do more. We, as men, need to stand strong in our relationships. We must be reliable providers and protectors. We must show tamariki the way to respect and honour women.”

Mr Garcia said there is not “a day that I wake up without giving thanks for being in New Zealand”, which he praised being a place “where people from the world over are able to live without fear in the practice of their faith and values, and in observance of their cultural norms”.

While he had experienced hatred, slander and being ostracised, he acknowledged the suffering of others from many walks of life — displaced youth, those with issues around alcohol, drugs and gambling and those elderly who are isolated.

Each of us has “the capacity for greed, anger and hatred”, he cautioned. But he also argued strongly for Parliament to protect freedom of speech

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