Filling a gap for pro-life youth in southern Ontario was the goal of the second annual Youth for Life Challenge held at Notre Dame High School in Burlington, Ont. on April 20.

Sponsored by Halton Pro-Life, the day-long event attracted high school, college and university students from as far as St. Catharines to hear presenters including bioethics expert Father Tom Lynch, disabled rights advocate Adrian Dieleman and LifeSite News editor John-Henry Westen. The day was topped off with a concert given by Pure Silence and popular Christian band Critical Mass.

“Our aim was two-fold – to educate and to activate,” said Halton Pro-Life president Joanne Matters. “We educate young people in our area, and surrounding areas, on life issues, and inspire them to take that knowledge and become active in the pro-life movement wherever they are … so they can influence their peers and help activate them as well to become involved in building the culture of life.”

The first presenter was Halton Pro-Life speaker Claudine Hardy, who provided a primer on abortion-related issues, history, fetal development, population trends and economics. She also related an abortion experience she had when she was 16.

“I’ve been dealing with it ever since,” she told the hushed audience, adding that through prayer, counselling and priestly guidance, she is overcoming post-abortion effects to come to terms with the experience. Hardy stressed the importance of extending a hand to other women who have undergone abortions and bringing them to a place of healing.

Father Tom Lynch offered the young people a layperson’s introduction to the complex field of bioethics, first by outlining seven problems inherent in the phenomenon of human cloning.

  • – every life is new
  • – cloning makes males reproductively obsolete
  • – a “cookie-cutter” mentality develops, wherein a desire for the “perfect child” emerges
  • – humans may be born to be harvested (such as through stem cell research)
  • – there are problems with “mishaps” – only one of about 700 cloning attempts succeeds. Otherwise, genetic mistakes occur and “monsters” are created
  • – the sense of “self” is lost
  • – respect for nature and nature’s God is lost

Lynch said human cloning is inevitable, since immense amounts of money are being expended to bring it about.

Adrian Dieleman, 37, a quadriplegic, dominated the day with an impassioned appeal to respect the dignity of all human beings. He questioned why people such as Susan Smith, who drowned her children, and the parents of Randall Dooley are seen as “monsters,” while sympathy and cries for leniency abound for Robert Latimer, who killed his disabled daughter Tracey.

He recalled there was a time when he considered ending his own life shortly after a car accident at the age of 22 left him permanently injured. As he lay in his hospital bed, he looked out the window and thought about how he would jump out of it if he could.

Fortunately, no one was on hand at that time to offer him euthanasia. Eventually, he came to realize that he still had a reason to live, and that it wasn’t his place to end his life, however much he may have wanted to.

Dieleman noted a troubling, huge increase in incidents in which parents have killed their disabled children in Canada since the Latimer case. He also pointed to other disturbing developments, including the availability of the “exit bag” (by which people can suffocate themselves) and the appointment of notorious euthanasia advocate Peter Singer to a prestigious post at Princeton university. “It’s wrong to end what God has given – the lives that we have,” he said.

Halton Pro-Life worker Michelle Starcevic and her fiance Andre Minten offered the young people “dating strategies for 2002” and counselled them on how to remain chaste until marriage. John-Henry Westen and David Wang, meanwhile, focused their presentations on pro-life and the media.

Matters said she was pleased to see the keenness of the young attendees. “At the end of each talk, they had a chance to ask questions, and I was very impressed with them. You could tell they were thinking. They wanted to know more, add clarification or comment.”