Every year, Canada’s pro-life university students look forward to the National Campus Life Network national symposium on the final weekend in September. The symposium is designed to educate, network and motivate post-secondary student leaders for pro-life activism. Students from across the country travel by car, bus, subway and plane to partake in this important event.
This year, 46 attendees, representing 22 Canadian campuses, came together the weekend of Sept. 28–30.
On the first evening, NCLN hosted a forum for students to share successful event ideas and tips for running a campus club. Among other tips and advice, the students heard about two opposite situations when seeking club status. Guelph’s pro-life club, Life Choice, just recently was ratified as an official club with very few obstacles. On the other hand, Carleton LifeLine faced numerous challenges and spoke about what they did to ensure that freedom of speech would be upheld on their campus. As one student said, “It was wonderful to hear challenges others have overcome and give suggestions for problems we may face.”
Saturday was packed with pro-life apologetics, information sessions, workshops and motivational talks. Jose Ruba, from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, spent the morning with the students instilling in them the importance of pro-life work, why it is absolutely necessary for action and how to use time in the most effective way. He went through the basics for apologetics, allowed for some practice time, then jumped into the philosophical arguments that are often heard on campuses.
The afternoon gave students the choice to pick from three workshop options: the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, the Genocide Awareness Project or Euthanasia 101. Each workshop provided sound tools for effective events to hold on campuses. Ladies from Silent No More made it very clear to the students that their message needs to be heard. Megan Middleton, a second-year nursing student at McMaster University, related, “They really remind us of the heart and soul behind why we must work for life. Their ongoing struggles and heroic stand for truth and compassion is such an example for us, both men and women.” Students spoke with Angelina Steenstra, regional co-ordinator for Silent No More, about having her and other women come to speak at their campuses.
The attendees were fortunate enough to see the new DVD Turning the Tidefrom the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. Following that, Alex Schadenberg, the EPC’s executive director, spoke about the importance of changing our culture.
A special treat for the symposium this year were the Sisters of Life who attended for most of the weekend. There are three now living at St. Augustine’s Seminary and they were happy to meet and talk with the students. The same was true vice-versa. In fact, one of the sisters, Sr. Antoniana Maria, gave credit to the NCLN Symposium in 1999 for giving her the “conviction to dedicate (her) life to the protection of all human life full-time.”
The highlight of the evening was a motivational address by Joseph Scheidler from the Pro-Life Action League, based in Chicago. After many years of direct pro-life action, Scheidler spoke from experience and with strong conviction. He promised he would pass on the torch to the young leaders, but that it would have to be “pried from his cold, dead hands.” He is certainly not planning on slowing down anytime soon, but he definitely welcomed and encouraged the students to take on this battle for life with him. It would take a lot of sacrifice, but it would be worth it, he said. Scheidler shared how he had quit a high-end, stable job to commit his life to saving lives.
An important theme throughout the weekend was the example of men and women who have dedicated their lives to defending the dignity of all human beings in the pro-life movement. Many of the speakers are committed to the movement on a full-time basis, often at great sacrifice to themselves. It is NCLN’s hope that students will use their time effectively on campus, but also consider how they will stay involved once a diploma is in their hands.