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Published: Thursday, June 15, 2017, 7:14 am | Author:
On May 11, more than 15,000 Canadian pro-lifers participated in the National March for Life in Ottawa, and thousands more took part in regional marches in various provincial capitals including Victoria, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, and Halifax. Fredericton was the site of a pro-life march a week later.
The theme of the 2017 March was “Life, We stand on guard for Thee,” tying into to the 150th anniversary of Confederation by borrowing from the lyrics of the national anthem. Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes told the audience Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, said that abortion “saps the very life blood of the nation.” Hughes called upon those in attendance that their pro-life activism does not end with demonstrating in the nation’s capital, as they needed to return to their communities to educate their friends, family, and neighbours.
Pro-life and religious leaders spoke on Parliament Hill before the March, as did 14 MPs and four senators (all Conservatives).
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa introduced his fellow bishops and Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto gave a talk about how pro-lifers needed to use their hands, hearts, and heads. He urged them to use their hands in service to those who are vulnerable, their hearts in the “silence of prayer,” and their heads to always “think clearly about what we are doing.” Cardinal Collins said, “It’s very important that we are here,” because the pro-life presence is a “sign of our fidelity” and a “witness to life.” He said, “both legislators and the judiciary have turned away from the sanctity of life.”
Among the MPs speaking was Arnold Viersen (Peace River-Westlock) who said: “Human beings have human rights. Human rights begin when the human being begins. Science tells us when the human being begins: human beings begin at conception. Therefore we must defend the human rights of all human beings.”
Senator Tobias Enverga (Ontario) said “we have to fight to protect the rights of the unborn” and the March “is as important today as it ever was.” He said he applauded those “who continue to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice.” He said he is personally interested in the issue because his daughter has Down syndrome before handing her the microphone; she declared herself pro-life to the applause of the massive crowd gathered.
MP Mark Warawa (Langley—Aldergrove) said the March is the largest demonstration on the Hill “every year because you are right.” MP David Anderson (Cypress Hills–Grasslands) told the audience “you are the encouragement we need” to fight on behalf of life. Senator Norman Doyle (Newfoundland and Labrador) told pro-lifers to keep up the good work. Senator Betty Unger (Alberta) said she was “proud to be part of the Parliamentary pro-life caucus” and while “it is not easy, that doesn’t stop us.” Kevin Sorenson (Battle River-Crowfoot) thanked those in attendance for joining the March. Harold Albrecht (Kitchener-Conestoga) noted that above the West window of Parliament there is a line from Proverbs: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Albrecht said “my vision” for Canada is pro-life.
MP Cathay Wagantall (Yorkton-Melville) talked about her private member’s bill, Cassie and Molly’s Law, that would have protected unborn victims of violent crime. It was defeated last year. MP Marilyn Gladu (Sarnia—Lambton) discussed her private member’s bill calling for a national palliative care framework. C-277 passed unanimously in the House of Commons and is waiting for the Senate to consider the bill.
Two Conservative Party leadership contenders endorsed and attended the March, MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-University) and former MP Pierre Lemieux. Lemieux said pro-lifers must be allowed to speak up about the issues they care about. Trost said those attending the March must have faith, hope and love: “Faith that we can change” things, to offer “hope to those who are suffering,” and “love those who cannot speak for themselves.”
After speeches, the throng moved to the street and marched through downtown Ottawa. Afterward, many returned to the Hill to hear the personal testimonies of women and men affected by abortions in their lives.
In recent years, there have been 25,000 participants in the March, but Campaign Life Coalition, organizer of the annual event, says this year the number was 15,000. CLC national president said his organization will investigate possible reasons for the decline but noted that fewer schools were sending buses to the March, especially following a ruckus last year between pro-abortion counter-protesters and police and the interference the year before by a topless feminist activist. Hughes said enhanced security and police preparedness minimized interference this year and he applauded the steps taken to ensure the safety of the marchers.
The day was not without controversy. A National March for Life flag was erected at Ottawa City Hall following a campaign by retired RCMP officer, Francis Barrett, 89, to have it mark the 20th anniversary of the event. The flag was taken down early following complaints from both some left-wing city councilors and pro-abortion activists. The city is reviewing its flag policy with an eye to preventing the flag from flying again in the future.
At the Rose Dinner in the evening, CLC’s Jim Hughes reflected on 20 years of hosting the march for life and his lifetime involvement in the pro-life movement. Across the hall, the youth banquet featured Transform DJ, a Christian rap and light show.
The evening before, several hundred people took part in the Candlelight Vigil remembering the victims of abortion held at the National Human Rights Monument.
The day after the March, about 800 high school students attended the Niagara Right to Life-sponsored youth conference.