“March like someone’s life depended on it” was the cry that went out from Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) National Office in Toronto, led by president Jim Hughes. For the 18th year in a row, CLC was the engine behind the largest March for Life in Canada, held May 14.
Pro-life families, groups, parishes, the elderly, schools, colleges, and various Christian churches were present, bringing the number of marchers to an estimated 25,000.
They congregated in front of the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa, the same place where in 1969, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69, introduced by Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government, legalized abortion.
Conservative MP Harold Albrecht told the crowd that four million lives have been lost since abortion was decriminalized in 1969. “This year another 100,000 [unborn children] will be denied the most basic human right, the right to life.”
He spoke of the devastating impact of abortion on the economy, on the family and on lost human potential. “What we are doing is unconscionable,” said Albrecht, adding that he hoped one day the law will change and so will “hearts and minds.”
Among the marchers were 30 Lutherans for Life. With their leader, Gary Teske, they travelled all the way from Saskatoon, citing Psalm 139: “Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.”
Papal Nuncio Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi said, “This is my first march for life but even though it is the first time, it is to be renewed every day, every day … every day, 365 per year, is a march, a time to march for life.”
The nuncio told the crowd that Pope Francis feels “deep gratitude” for Canada’s Pro-Life Movement.
Beauty of life
Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins was present along with the archbishop of Ottawa, Terrence Prendergast, and the archbishop of Montreal, Christian Lépine, as well as other Catholic bishops, and bishops from the Ukrainian and Anglican communities. Chief Kenny Blacksmith represented the First Nations People of Canada and read a moving prayer supporting life at all stages and committed his people to protecting it.
Cardinal Collins said to the crowds that this “very, very important” event rightly focuses on the “great evil of abortion.”
“We come together here prayerfully, thoughtfully with a profound desire to witness the great gift of life from the first moment of conception until natural death,” he said. “We think today particularly of the great evil of abortion, and rightly so we do. Pray about that and pray that that this scourge may be taken from our land.”
“But it [the March] is also important this year in light of the recent Canadian Supreme Court’s Carter decision… [Which struck down the country’s law and passed legalized Assisted Suicide]. We need to think also of the other end of this earthly journey.”
The cardinal referred to the legalization of assisted suicide as “another sign of the culture of death.”
Both assisted suicide and abortion demand “prayer and absolute, courageous, persevering witness [to] the beauty of the gift of life from the first moment of conception until natural death,” he declared. “’Thou shalt not kill’ is simple and profound. It is something we need to reflect upon and we need to live and we need to affirm.”
The cardinal also referred to the lack of mainstream media: “It’s as though it [the March] is invisible to them.” (EWTN Global TV from the US, however, came north and amply broadcast the entire event live throughout the world.)
Twenty-four MPs who are members of the Pro-Life Parliamentary Caucus, all of the Conservative Party of Canada, participated, giving witness to what committed politicians-for-life can do.
Former Liberal MP Pat O’Brien, now consultant to CLC, said that “no other demonstration (on Parliament Hill) comes close in size to this one for life” and explained that one has to work in Parliament to understand the “kind of courage it takes to stand for life.”
These Canadian Federal MPs face “enormous pressure,” he said. The MPs gave pointers to the crowd on how they can work effectively in their own cities to bring about the Culture of Life in Canada.
Some of the youth present said they were inspired hearing this and they are planning to enter politics. Joe, a young man working on the Hill said, “We are the next leaders in Canada, and we must do this.”
Emma, a CLC youth worker, said young people are “quite receptive” when presented with solid facts and explanations from a pro-life perspective. Up until then, she said, “They just go along with what the media says or peer pressure.” Instead, the young pro-life generation says, “They will be the change in Canada,” and their presence in the thousands at the march testified to this certainty.
David Anderson, MP of Saskatoon, said people are rising up following the Supreme Court’s assisted suicide decision.
Campagne-Vie leader Georges Buscemi of Quebec handed him a petition with 23,000 signatures against euthanasia.
Weighing in on what has just happened, Doctor Margaret Cottle, a palliative care physician and a clinical instructor at UBC who is VP of the Board of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) in Canada, said, “Up until this ruling every life was equally protected under Canadian law. In this ruling, by eliminating the legal prohibition against physician assisted suicide and euthanasia, the Supreme Court essentially ruled that some lives are not worth living and we as a society will provide programs, funds and personnel (doctors) who will help to end those lives.”
“Many doctors have been taken by surprise,” she added. “They did not think that something like this could happen so quickly.They do not really understand the implications of what they may – will — be asked to do. Most of them are only beginning to realize that they may be asked to kill patients. Many physicians naively believe that if E/PAS become legal, they will not have to be involved in any way and can just go on practicing as they always have.”
Doctor Will Johnson who is a Family physician and Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of BC, said, “Citizens who care about this need to make it clear that they want a doctor who does not engage in these practices.”
“Physicians need to have dedicated, sustained support from the public so that they will not be compelled to participate in killing,” he said.
Conservative MP Stella Ambler of Mississauga South, Ontario, told marchers to write their MPs concerning the Carter decision and let them know “this is not a good idea.”
She urged the marchers to find out who their pro-life candidate is in their riding or a local riding and help them get elected at the upcoming Canadian Federal Election on Oct 19.