Thousands gather in Ottawa May 14 to mark 30 years of legalized abortion

Organizers say they’re pleased with the results of the second annual March for Life, which took place in Ottawa May 13-14. The event saw almost 3,000 Canadians from coast to coast take part in a number of activities aimed at drawing attention both to the two million unborn Canadians killed in their mothers’ wombs through abortion since 1969, and to the pro-life movement’s commitment to continue working until the right to life is recognized for all from conception to natural death.

Attendance figures almost quadrupled over those of last year’s inaugural effort. A particular effort was made to stage a high-profile event with large numbers this time around, since May 14 marked the 30th anniversary of the passing of the Trudeau government’s infamous Omnibus Bill that legalized abortion.

“We need to respond to this historical fact,” said Bill Mullally, an adviser with Campaign Life Coalition’s national office in Toronto and a key organizer of the event. “We also need to keep developing this program.”

Mullally said a meeting of organizers was to be held shortly, in which it was to be decided whether the event will be held again next year. However, it was his prediction that the next March for Life will go ahead as planned in May 2000.

Mullally added that there were a number of highlights from the two days, including an opening press conference that saw a strong contingent of pro-life MPs meet with the media. However, he did express disappointment with relatively poor mainstream media coverage – a phenomenon that is far from foreign to the pro-life movement.

“The secular media showed that they are unable to report on this issue,” he said. “So few of them know about or understand life issues.” He said the massive effort that went into the pro-life quilt project was basically ignored.

The March for Life coverage stood in stark contrast to the copious reporting afforded to pro-abortion groups during protests against Human Life International’s April conference in Toronto.

The two days in Ottawa began with the press conference at the Congress Centre, which was attended by a cadre of representatives from the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, including chairs Jason Kenney, Elsie Wayne and Tom Wappel. They were joined during a question-and-answer session with the media by Ontario Liberal MP Dan McTeague.

A powerful moment took place when Wayne spontaneously raised MP Maurice Vellacott’s son before the camera’s and challenged reporters on whether they would agree to the killing of such a child through abortion.

The press conference was followed by a luncheon, also at the Congress Centre, attended by hundreds of pro-lifers from across Canada. They were treated to addresses by Kenney, Wayne and Wappel, as well as by Deacon Gerry Brunelle, a pastoral co-ordinator for the Archdiocese of Ottawa’s French sector, and Gilles Grondin, the president of Campagne Quebec Vie. The keynote speaker was Angelina Steenstra of the Second Chance ministry, which assists those struggling with post-abortion traumas. Steenstra spoke from experience, having undergone an abortion herself at 15, and experienced the death of a daughter.

The afternoon of May 13 saw pro-lifers divide themselves between meeting their MPs, in order to press on them the pro-life issue, and attending the headquarters of the Canadian Medical Association to (for the first time) protest the CMA’s abdication of its obligation to uphold the Hippocratic Oath.

Evening activities allowed pro-lifers to gather for some socializing, with entertainment provided by musicians Phil Main and Pat Willbond. Father Ted Colleton then addressed the gathering, as did Therese Ferri, who offered a touching glimpse into life in her family of 14 children.

The day of the march, May 14, began with spiritual preparations at both Metropolitan Bible Church and St. Patrick’s Basilica. It was then on to the march’s starting point at the grounds of the Supreme Court, site of the notorious 1988 Morgentaler decision which threw out all Criminal Code restrictions against the killing of unborn children.

Ken Campbell, founder and president of the evangelical pro-life group Choose Life Canada, offered prayers over the gathering before launching into a spirited address which tied the dominant North American culture of death in with the shocking high school shootings in Littleton, Colo. and Taber, Alta.

The throng, signs and banners in hand, then marched through the streets of downtown Ottawa toward the grounds of Parliament Hill, chanting and singing hymns along the way.

At Parliament Hill, they were greeted by more music from Phil Main, before the main program got underway and a succession of leading speakers, including numerous MPs, made speeches. A wide cross-section representing Canadian society took the podium, including a Jewish rabbi, an Islamic cleric, a member of the Orthodox Church in Canada, an Anglican bishop, and an evangelical pastor, as well as men and women, young and old, francophone and anglophone.

At the end of it all, the pro-lifers dispersed either to return home or further enjoy the sights of Ottawa – and to look forward to next year’s March for Life which, they hoped, would be even larger and send a yet stronger message to elected leaders that the current state of lawlessness regarding the unborn is a travesty and an injustice.